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  • Norfolk Farms

Busy as a Bee in Norfolk County

John Alderson comes from a long line of farmers, dating back to early Mennonites, be it dairy farming, hogs, cash crops or bees. His Grandfather began with bees in the early 1900’s, selling his honey at the St. Lawrence Market, Toronto for many years. When he passed away John got his equipment and he started in the bee keeping business in the 1970’s and continues today still.

John Alderson and his hives.

“I’ve been a commercial bee keeper for over 50 years. I take my honey to local farmer’s markets and I supply hives to local farmers for their fields. Vegetables need bees to pollinate for better crop yield as well as apples, peaches, plums, blueberries…if there’s no bees there’s no strawberries, no raspberries, no blueberries, no food…they need bees” states Alderson.” I have about 100 hives contracted out to area farmers for their crops. Eighty to eighty five percent of fruits need pollination”.

Alderson has worked as a Forestry & Weed Inspector for Brant County and also worked in Plant Protection for the Federal Government so he is well aware of the need to protect the agricultural community and keep it free from infectious diseases from other countries.

Last year was definitely not a good year for bee keepers. In fact, Alderson described it as ‘devastating’. “I lost about 95 % of my hives. In February and March they (the hives) were heavy enough. We wrapped them (hives) in the Fall but we still suffered a loss. Our yield is correlated to Mother Nature and the cycle of plants. Last August a hot spell slowed down the golden rod and asters and affected the crop. After a good frost the nectar ends…this all affected the season”.

While there is loss due to climate conditions, Colony Collapse Disorder and Varroa Mites, Alderson feels that the use of Neonicotinoid, a new fungicide, is a large part of the problem, as is crop spraying, in bee loss. “As a beekeeper we feel it is a chemical issue. There are always new fungicides being used” adds Alderson.

While the area bee keepers can apply to the Government for funding support, Alderson notes “This is a long process that takes about two months and there are always strings attached. I’m not sure if I’ll get anything (from the government). Bee insurance doesn’t cover the total cost for loss either. They (costs) go up all of the time with an increase this year alone of about 30 to 50%. “. He describes these issues as ‘a hazard of the job’.

“I have one isolated yard and I’m always experimenting and trying to solve the problems…you know, flora, fauna and weather”, adds Alderson.” I’m doing some genetic stock breeding to make them (bees) more winter resistant You also have to make sure you know the source of your breeders and genetics”.

In spite of all the issues and losses last season, Alderson states “This year is my best crop in a lot of years. Mother Nature was much better to us this year. One issue this season has been a granulated sugar supply …we may have to go to liquid. We can feed the bees either”. There’s a lot of hive management involved from the number of bees to is the Queen laying right, will she be accepted by the hive, will it be a cold Spring… there are many variables involved.” Hail in the orchard the last two years has also affected the bee industry. Problems have been more widespread this year but Alderson says he is in it for the long haul.

Alderbrook Farm and Apiary is located between Wilsonville and Boston, #863 Norfolk County Rd. 19 and you are more than welcome to stop by to get you Dalilia Bee Honey – named after his wife. Pay no never mind to the bees though…they’re harmless and just doing their job.

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