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Sask. beekeeper remains optimistic after warm winter gives way to rough spring

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A Saskatchewan beekeeper is staying optimistic after a warm winter that provided some great conditions for bee production.

But a cool, windy, and rainy spring has resulted in less than ideal conditions, leaving the industry feeling the sting heading into the summer.

Being in the bee business for more than 30 years, Simon Lalonde has dealt with a lot of adversity, this year is no exception.

“We had a really good winter because it was so warm for so long, but we had a really cool spring. It was windy and rainy so the bees couldn't do their foraging for pollen,” Lalonde told CTV News.

He makes his money off of the honey produced from his 3,500 hives, each home to around 80,000 bees.

Lalonde says Canadian honey is superior globally because of the extended daylight hours to produce it during the summer. (Carla Shynkaruk/CTV News)

One of the other significant aspects of his business is helping farmers pollinate their crops by relocating his hives to other land.

“We’ve got bees on 60 or 70 different parcels of land; they grant us permission to have the bees there,” he said.

There’s no cost for this arrangement but is mutually beneficial.

For Lalonde, it provides more pollen for his bees from crops like canola, alfalfa, and clover. For the farmers, it means a higher quality yield with more efficient pollination of crops, according to Lalonde.

He has bee feeders out right now which contain extra pollen for the bees. In a normal spring, there wouldn't be very many bees taking advantage of it, but because of the weather this year, the bees are relying on the extra pollen supply.

“Right now, based on this, we can tell there's nothing out there or it's too cool to fly. They don't want to fly two miles because it's cool, windy, and looks like rain.”

Lalonde says Canadian honey is superior globally because of the extended daylight hours to produce it during the summer.

“You know exactly what you’re getting if you buy local honey. It’s the same as any local food product. Canada has the toughest food regulations in the world, so you know it’s been produced in accordance with the most strict food requirements,” he said.

Lalonde remains optimistic, that this year’s crop will be about average. (Carla Shynkaruk/CTV News)

All-natural honey solidifies, so he warns not to be fooled by the golden liquid which usually has added syrup.

The import of lower quality honey is causing supply and demand issues in Canada, leading to more local honey being shipped out.

In the last 18 months, Lalonde has seen honey prices drop by about half. He’s also still recovering from a 70 per cent loss in his bee numbers in 2023 due to a bad winter. But even with all this, he has no plans to quit because there's no place he'd rather be.

“It’s fairly relaxing, in the winter get a lot of time off.”

Lalonde remains optimistic, that this year’s crop will be about average.

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