On high honey yields and B.C. Sugar’s sweet spot

Our post about high honey yields experienced by Tim Monaghan and John Mei prompted some questions about how others are doing right now.

Tim Monaghan and his tall hives

This morning I spoke to Paul van Westendorp, the provincial apiculturalist, who said some beekeepers are getting astonishing returns despite the so-so spring weather. He told me of a pair of newbies in Tsawassen who have a pair of hives at a local school. They’re approaching six supers as well.

Van Westendorp can’t explain this other than to say it depends upon the availabilty of food sources for the bees, and also to a degree the placement of the hives.

I also received this interesting and amusing note from Mark Winston. As Amanda and I drove to work today we mused about the idea of planting a couple of beehives at the Rogers sugar plant on the harbour . . .

Mark writes:

“I’ve been enjoying your blog on bees, and the story of the 250-350 lb. yields reminded me of a highly respected Surrey beekeeper, Jim Medill,who was one of those legends who more than lived up to his reputation.

“Jim was one of the great beekeepers of his day, always ready to help a fellow-beekeeper or visit a school group to promote the joys of beekeeping and honey-eating. He owned a building in Chinatown, kept 20 hives on the roof, and often told wonderful stories about his 400 pounds-per-hive average, until someone pointed out how close he was to the packing plant for what was then called BC Sugar.”

“Excellent yields in the city are more than possible, and when I lived in New Westminster we’d routinely get 100 lbs. per colony, occasionally pushing 125. There is a great diversity and abundance of flowers in the city, and not only honey bees but wild bees do quite well.

Rogers Refinery - photo credit Bobkh

“But you might look into what’s within foraging distances of the bees you wrote about, as 250-300 lb. yields just from flowers would be quite remarkable, even in a bee-friendly city like Vancouver. If they still pack sugar at the Rogers plant, that’s easily within flying distance, especially for such a concentrated reward. Or, maybe they are just superb beekeepers. I’d be curious as to the floral sources that could be producing that kind of yield in the city. Similar yields are common across much of the Canadian prairies, but then the bees are foraging on vast acreages of bee-friendly crops in Canada’s north, where the bees can fly for 20 hours a day during the blooming season.”

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