L3 WESCAM reports that the bees survived this winter. Bees you ask? Yes, our Kerns Road, Burlington location is home to two hives which are lovingly cared for by the intrepid Gene Wasik, of the Golden Horseshoe Beekeepers Association, who is also our local beekeeper.
This news is exciting, particularly as Ontario beekeepers have suffered overwinter losses – compounded by the late spring build up. Seven out of ten Ontario beekeepers report “unsustainable” losses this year – a loss that carries forward to the vegetable and fruit growers who depend on bees for pollination. Our host, Gene, reports that his fellow beekeepers have suffered a 60 – 70% loss this year. Three factors can affect hive health: mites, neonicotinoids and weather.
In fact, in a recent Hamilton Spectator article, experts say, “there aren’t enough bees in our ecosystem”. As a result, the Hamilton Port Authority has turned to urban beekeeping company, Humble Bee, to provide the food and shelter necessary for honey bees – ultimately forming a sustainable breeding ground.
The City of Burlington, meanwhile, has constructed a brand-new community garden in Ireland Park featuring pollinator-friendly groundcover paths and a perennial garden to attract bees. The park opened this spring thanks to a $20,000 grant from the Toronto-Dominion Friends of the Environment Foundation (TD EFF). For more information about Burlington’s community gardens, visit http://burlington.ca/communitygardens.
WESCAM’s own Product Marketing Specialist, Jonathan Markle, who has a beekeeping side hustle, explains his love of beekeeping this way, “It’s a multi-layered challenge – with a lot of variables. A lifelong learning experience with sweet rewards.” For him, it’s a great way to spend time with the kids.
WESCAM employees were invited to a lunch and learn with Gene on Tuesday, June 19th, where they were treated to a sample of our honey as well as a talk about the ins and outs of beekeeping. The two Langstroth-style hives were started in August 2017, when Gene received a call about a swarm of honey bees. He transported the swarm to its new location, right here on the property, adjacent to the buzz of highway 407. Since then, Gene has been planting some pollinator seeds near the fence to ensure a good supply of pollen.
The hives are very close together, and Gene gently opened each hive for us to take a peek. It was easy to see that regardless of where the workers were coming from, they were able to identify the correct hive due to the pheromones emitted by the Queen bee.
We saw that one hive was very busy, while the other seemed to be struggling. The workers in the less robust hive (the one with the blue stripes) were more docile and clustered around a certain area – likely that was where the Queen Bee was.
Everyone enjoyed their lunch and learn experience, and many went back for a second sampling of the liquid gold.
You may be surprised to learn that not all honey is as pure as it is made out to be. In fact, unless you know the source, you may be eating “fake” honey. So hit up that local farmer’s market, or better yet, if you’re keen to start beekeeping – the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association is a wealth of knowledge.
Honey Bee Facts:
Honey bees are not native to North America; they came from Europe in 1622.
Honey bees are responsible for pollinating 1/3 of all crops in north America – that’s a lot of fruit and vegetables!
A honey bee visits between 50 and 100 flowers during one collection flight from the hive – all within a four-kilometer radius. In order to produce ½ a kilo of honey, 2 billion flowers must be visited.
There are 3 types of honey bees: Queen bee (only 1 per hive, female), Worker bee (10,000-60,000 per hive, all female), Drone (200, per hive, all male).
A Queen bee’s only job is to lay 2000 eggs per day. All of her other needs are taken care of by the worker bees.
A Queen bee controls the hive using pheromones. When she gets old she loses this power.
When a Queen bee dies, candidates for new Queen bee are selected from the larvae. The worker bees dote on the new Queen larvae with royal jelly. Once born, the other candidates are killed by the new Queen.
All Honey bees overwinter in the hive – they keep each other warm by fluttering their wings together. The middle of the hive stays around 30 degrees Celsius, the exterior stays around 10 degrees Celsius.
Honey bees require 23 – 32 kilograms of honey in their hive to survive the winter.
The average Worker bee produces only about 1/10th teaspoon of honey in his lifetime. It takes about 10 – 12 bees to make a single teaspoon of honey!