Dr. Corinna Goodine: Bees 101

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Bee populations are declining worldwide due to pesticides, climate change, and intensive agriculture practices. Besides honey production, bees have so many other important jobs in the world. Many food crops rely on pollinators such as bees to be able to produce. Almonds, cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, pears, apples, blueberries, red currants, and raspberries are just a few of these crops that would not be possible without bees.

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Bees are remarkable insects. They have the ability to fly at speeds up to 25 kilometres per hour. When out collecting nectar from flowers, they are able to fly back to the colony with nectar weighing up to 90% of their body weight. This is comparable to a 200 pound person flying with 180 pounds of extra weight strapped onto their body!

Bees require a colony environment and social setting for survival. Bees work hard to protect their colony, even if it means death of an individual bee – such as what occurs following stinging in most instances. A typical bee colony is made up of one queen, worker bees, drones, and developing brood.

The queen bee has one job in the hive: to lay eggs. She is able to lay up to 1,500 eggs per day. The queen can live for up to four to five years in a healthy colony, although most people with domestic hives replace the queen every year or two.

The worker bees are responsible for all the work in the hive, which includes taking care of the developing brood, cleaning the hive, storing the honey, and foraging for nectar, pollen, water, and propolis. The average lifespan of a worker bee is four to six weeks during the spring to fall season. Most bees die out in the field at the end of their life. Over the winter in the hive, most bees survive the entire winter as long as the colony is healthy, otherwise loss of the whole colony is possible.

Drones are the male bees of the colony. Their sole purpose is to leave the colony to find another queen to have the existing colony’s genes passed on. They cannot collect nectar, sting or have any other duties in the hive.

Although many people avoid bees due to the potential of getting stung, others may want to create a bee-friendly environment. Planting lupines, lavender, sweet clover, snap dragons, holly hock, sunflowers or poppies will attract bees and other pollinators.

Many people have taken an interest in honey production, and have one or several honey producing hives. Before becoming a beekeeper (also known as apiarist), a large amount of knowledge is required to keep a successful hive. Overwintering, disease control and proper nutrition are a few aspects that can be challenging for a new beekeeper. With the proper tools and knowledge, a thriving hive and successful honey crop is possible year after year!

Dr. Corinna Goodine was born and raised in the Fort St. John Community and discovered her passion for veterinary medicine at an early age. In June 2015 she completed her dream of becoming a veterinarian and graduated from The Western College of Veterinary Medicine. She is excited and enthusiastic about joining the veterinary team as a mixed animal practitioner with special interests in beef cattle and small animal medicine and surgery.

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