—— By Kenneth Wong

 

Climate change causing nectar shortage and varroa mite infestation for Grimshire Apiaries.

Bruce and Diane Grimshire have been beekeeping for 15 years, starting with two hives and an orchard. Today, the Grimshires have 2.5 million hives in the form of just under 50 colonies.

The Grimshires keep a variety of different types of honey bees. “We just have honeybees,” said Diana. “Which is Apis mellifera, which is the European honeybee,” added Bruce. “But like dogs or cattle, there are different strains.”

The apiary mostly contains Carinolan bees, the Grimshires hope to get Caucasian bees this year. 

“They all have a little bit different traits,” explained Bruce. “The Italians will grow real fast in the spring, but they eat a lot of food over winter so quite often, they can starve themselves out.”

“The Carinolans, they’re a little bit slower to take off in the spring, so if you’re selling nucs (nucleus colonies), you want the Italians because their population will grow bigger,” continued Bruce. “And Caucasian, they’re just a gentler bee.”

Climate change disrupts the entire ecosystem which causes multifaceted problems for the apiary. When the Grimshires first started beekeeping 15 years ago, queen bees would stop laying eggs around late September to mid October meaning there was brood larva left in the hive. 

“That allowed you to keep the mites in check,” explained Bruce. “But now it’s a little bit warmer falls, there’s brood later, and the Varroa, they reproduce in the brood so you got this population of the bromide going into winter, which can affect the health over winter.

Late falls and early springs cause the flying bees to use up their energy and honey supply. 

“Even though they’re flying, there’s no forage, so there’s no nectar, not a ton of pollen,” explains Diana. “But they’re so active, we find we have to feed more, we have to treat mites more, and it ends just ends up being a cycle of stress.”

Bruce sums up this stress cycle as “more time and expense.”

Climate change also causes droughts during the summer, preventing flowers from producing nectar and forcing bees to focus on collecting water in order to cool down the hive. 

“There’s potential for there to be lots of flowers, but because of the heat, there not be any nectar in the flowers for a majority of the time during the day,” explains Diana. “So it ends up being that the bees are just trying to bring in water so then they will start starving out or if there’s not enough feed for the larva that’s in the hive, they’ll cannibalize those larva just to do to have something (to eat).”