Tim Wendell, above, his wife Isabel
and a seasonal staff of about 30 keep
more than 3,000 hives in Manitoba and
Saskatchewan, south of the Town of
Roblin. PinP photo - 2009.
On a recent speaking engagement, he told audiences in Neepawa, he lost one "bee yard" himself a couple of years ago. It was next to a field which had been planted 4 or 5 years straight to corn treated with "neonics."
He estimates, of the 40 thousand bees in that colony, perhaps only 5 thousand were left. And they were "very disorganized - no longer a community." He says government tests confirmed the chemical had gotten into the wax, pollen, soil and water in the yard. No "neonics" were found in the remaining bees, however. But Wendell does not believe that's surprising. That's because the chemical affects their ability to navigate. So those ingesting it simply get lost, never to be seen again!
Much of Manitoba's honey comes from bees who forage on canola crops. Wendell believes, since "neonic-treated" canola seeds are much smaller than corn, the danger to bees is probably much smaller.
But he is critical of methods used by commercial pollinators, who truck their bees long distances to pollinate food crops for others. Such methods are used widely in the U.S. and in Alberta and the Maritimes in Canada. Such practices weaken the bees by subjecting them to poor nutrition and stress.
But Wendell also admits he and his colleagues may, themselves be contributing to the poor state of honeybee health. The "Varroa destructor," a parasitic mite, for example, is a huge problem for beekeepers everywhere. So, he places chemical strips or "miticide" patches in his hives to combat them, because he feels he must. But he believes the strips, themselves can be harmful, even deadly to the bees. So he uses them as sparingly as he can and is testing out other, more natural treatments that won't put his bees at risk but still control the mites.
Interviews with Wendell, along with his recent slide presentation to the Neepawa Rotary Club, are now being aired in rotation on NACTV (Community access). Just go to "Schedule and Programs" and check out the next "Coffee Chat!"