Warmer temperatures bringing challenges for Vancouver Island food supply

Warmer temperatures bringing challenges for Vancouver Island food supply

El Niño conditions are bringing problems to Vancouver Island food suppliers as they weather drier and warmer conditions.

At the beginning of winter 2023, Kate Fraser, owner of Bees Please Farms, had 135 colonies. To her, a successful season would be one in which 100 colonies survived by the end of the season.

“I just plan and prepare and do the best beekeeping that I can,” said Fraser.

Following the recent cold snap, some of her bees died, which was expected. However, with a string of record-breaking warm temperatures, new issues have risen.

“We’re worried because changing from so cold to so warm, you know, is this deception spring, or is it just actual spring?” said Fraser.

The bees, which should normally be able to survive several months inside their hives, have begun to fly out in search of food due to the warmer, spring-like temperatures.

Fraser, who is also a secretary for the BC Honey Producers’ Association, rents out several hives to businesses in Greater Victoria. While flowers are blooming in the downtown area, on her Metchosin farm, it’s difficult for the bees to find nectar and pollen.

“They’re not finding much food, so it’s very important that beekeepers are putting supplemental food on right now.”

Her bees are searching for food that doesn’t exist yet, and every second they fly, they’re reducing their lifespan. With dozens of colonies at risk of dying off earlier than expected, honey production is at risk.

“Honey production is going to be tricky I think, it’s been tricky for quite a while, but the drought is a problem.”

El Niño conditions have not only created bare ski hills and flooding, it’s also brought concerns for droughts throughout this year.

“When you have those four or three months with no significant rainfall, it starts to take its toll on keeping up with everything,” said Clayton Fox, owner of Silver Rill Corn.

Warmer conditions are welcome for Fox, he says, as it helps with early crop production. But with the potential for drought-like conditions, he’s getting his irrigation systems prepared.

“Everybody likes to start as soon as possible, especially with things like corn…the earlier you have the corn, the better,” said Fox.

Oli HerreraOli Herrera

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