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Wednesday, May 25, 2022
HomeHealth and LifestyleLocal bee keepers invention could help save the declining bee population

Local bee keepers invention could help save the declining bee population

KAWARTHA LAKES- Standing smack in the middle of a swarm of bees, with no protective gear on, is Jerry Jerrards sweet spot.

25 years ago Jerrard was stuck in a factory job that he hated and was looking for a way out. That’s when he heard the buzz about a coworker trying to sell 5 hives for his grandfather. “I thought that’s a perfect way for me to get out of working in a factory for the rest of my life,” Jerrard told Kawartha 411. “I bought those 5 hives, I didn’t really know what I was doing but I really liked it.”

Those 5 hives grew to 125 and now Jerrard and his company, Kawartha Lakes Honey, has 500 hives in 17 locations throughout the Kawartha Lakes.

The first ten years in the business were great Jerrard says. Things changed in 2006 when Neonicotinoids began to be sprayed on food crops. Neonicotinoids are a neuro-active insecticide used to prevent pests from eating crops. In the late 1990s the insecticide came under increasing scrutiny over their environmental impact after some studies linked it’s use to adverse ecological effects, including large losses to the honey-bee population.

“Whatever you use the chemicals on, they are contaminating the environment and getting into bees’ food,”  Dave Goulson at the University of Sussex, UK told New Scientist Magazine.

Jerrard says he lost about 26% of his hives in 2006 and it increased every year after that. “The worst year I had I lost 63% of my bees which I attributed partly to neonicotinoids.”

Gerrard says the government has recently implemented measure to reduce the amount of neonicotinoids used by about 80% and thats partially contributed to a banner year for him. Although he says other areas are still experiences huge losses.

Now there’s another threat to the honey bee that has Jerrard concerned. “The Hive Beetle is going to show up in our area. It’s now made it to Canada, it’s in Windsor, Niagara and Montreal so it’s only a matter of time before it gets here.”

The Hive Beetle’s larvae can destroy beehives. The beetles are mostly a threat to the bees’ homes. Adult small hive beetles find places within honey bee colonies to lay eggs and the larvae defecate on the honeycomb, causing the honey to ferment and spoil.

This time around Jerrard isn’t waiting for government officials to deal with the threat to his hives.

He’s invented the Bionic Bee Yard. “I was thinking about going to extremes and doing whatever I have to do to eliminate a couple of problems for the bees.” Not only is the hive beetle a threat to bee hives they are also vulnerable to wild animals and thieves. “I thought what if I poured a great big concrete pad that I would sit the hives on,” he says with a smile. ” The more I thought about it the more I refined the idea, adding fencing.”

The concrete pads are 34’x34′ with steel fencing all around the outside edge. “It eliminates problems with bears, skunks and racoons. It’s got a gate with a lock so that eliminates thieves and vandals but It turns out theres a lot of other benefits as well.”

Gerrard put a moat in the concrete to help keep the hive beetle at bay. “If I put a trench in the concrete around the outside edge and fill it with food grade oil I could break the life cycle of the hive beetle.” Jerrard remarks. He says the larvae crawl out of the hives and try to make it onto the ground so they can pupate or become adults. So by preventing them from getting off the concrete you can stop them from becoming full grown.

The Bionic Bee yard also saves time. “I’d go into my bee yards and the first thing I would have to do is spend time weeding before I could start the task of beekeeping.” Now that the hives are on a concrete slab there’s no more weeding required.

The Bionic Bee Yard costs about $4000 and holds up to 35 hives. Gerrard says it will save money in the long run. “When you look at what happens when a bear gets into a yard and destroys the hive that can be devastating. I think these bionic yards will pay for themselves in 3-4 years.”

As time goes on Jerrard says he’s keeps finding more benefits to his invention. ” The older I get the heavier the honey boxes get,” he says with a chuckle. “I know they weigh 80 pounds, they weighed 80 pounds 20 years ago and they still weigh 80 pounds but they seem a lot heavier now.”  Having the concrete pad means he can use a hand cart and wheel them around rather than picking them up.

He’s been asked to discuss his invention at the next Ontario Bee Keepers Association meeting.

And he”s so glad he took the leap and got into the business 25 year ago. “It beats the heck out of working in a factory, I’m my own boss, I only answer to mother nature and my wife.”

Kawartha Lakes Honey is sold at local grocery and health food stores as well as at the honey house at 465 Colony Road near Bobcaygeon.




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Pamela Vanmeerhttps://www.kawartha411.ca/
Pamela VanMeer is a two time winner of the prestigious Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) Award. Her investigative reports on abuse in Long Term Care Homes garnered international attention for the issue and won the Ron Laidlaw Award. She is a former reporter and anchor at CHEX News, now Global Peterborough and helped launch the New CHEX Daily, a daily half hour talk show. While at CHCH News in Hamilton she covered some of the biggest news stories of the day.

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