Cranberry farmer Luke Decuber has finally found enough honey bees to pollinate his vines this year. He said it was not a simple feat, and he was concerned that it might be harder to achieve in the years to come.
“We talk to beekeepers,” they say [they] “They have a lot of deaths during the winter, especially this year,” he said.
The beekeeper, who usually rents out Decubber, expects to lose about half of his hives this year.
Decubber says it simply. without bees, his Canneberges Bécancour farm could not survive.
“If there is no animal or person to dust [the flowers]”We will not bear fruit,” said the former banker, who now spends all his time on his 160-hectare farm.
The farm, located in St. Louis-de-Blendford, Quee, about two hours northeast of Montreal, used to rely on indigenous pollinators when it started about 30 years ago.
But there are not enough native pollinators to cover the expanding trail of the farm, so like many other fruit growers, Decubber had to hire honey bees to pollinate the small white flowers, which eventually turn into cranberries.
Every summer he rents about 1,000 hives, which he places around the swamps where the cranberries grow.
Bees are an important part of the food supply chain
The region where Decubber is located, sometimes called the Cranberry Capital of Canada, is one of the largest fruit producers in the world.
The industry brings in hundreds of millions of dollars and provides hundreds of jobs. But if the bee population continues to decline, it may be in danger.
“If we do not have bees, I do not think we will survive,” Decuber said. “We absolutely need them.”
Paul Kelly, director of the Honey Bee Research Center at the University of Guelph, reiterates this concern.
He said honey bees are important to Canada’s agriculture. “About a third of the food we eat – the most nutritious ingredient in our diet – is pollinated by bees.”
“Fruits, seeds, nuts, berries, vegetables, all of these things benefit from bee pollination.”
But in recent years, it has become more difficult for farmers like Decubber to find hives for rent.
Loss of honey bees has increased since 2007, according to Kelly. This is a trend that worries Decubber.
“It will have an effect, you see, this year it was already difficult to get the hives we needed,” said the cranberry farmer.
Decuber said cranberry farmers need to find alternatives, such as using bees. But even that is not ideal, as bumblebee hives have significantly fewer bees than honey bee hives, he said.
One of the long-term solutions that Decubber is working on is to reclaim natural pollinators by planting native shrubs around cranberry swamps.
But in the short term, Kelly expects fruit and vegetable growers to be in short supply, as many beekeepers have lost their bees this year.
He said that these beekeepers will have to take hives from other producers to meet the demand.
“It will be a big challenge for the beekeeping sector, it can affect the pollination service,” he said.
A devastating winter for many beekeepers
Sebastien Laberge is a third-generation beekeeper, a honey producer, who runs La Miellerie St-Stanislas with his family in Saint-Stanislas-de-Costa, about an hour south-west of Montreal.
Laberge lost 70 percent of its bees this winter. It was devastating for his business, as half of his income was generated by renting blueberry, apple and vegetable farms to bees for pollination.
“We get calls every day for blueberries or cranberries. “We just do not have bees to deal with at the moment,” he said.
LaBerge is not the only beekeeper to be bitten this season. Many other bee producers in the regionև Canada had some unpleasant surprises when they opened their hives this spring.
The main culprit for the loss of bees in the country this year is believed to be the parasitic Varroa teas that kill bees.
Monoculture, the cultivation of one crop, also impairs the health of bees, as it provides them with only one source of nutrients.
Laberge believes that their decline may be due to other causes, such as pesticides, fungicides and climate change.
“It’s a bunch of different environmental issues that probably killed our bees.”
Laberge said he was lucky to be able to secure the bees imported from Australia to rebuild his hives.
But he estimates that Quebec alone will be short of about 10,000 hives this year.
“At the end of the day, we will all lose if nothing changes,” he said.
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