David Proctor

The importance of bees

Honey Bee Awareness Day at Tugwell Creek and Meadery meant to be informational.

Tugwell Creek Farm and Meadery held it’s fourth annual event for Day of the Honey Bee on May 27.

Dozens of people were expected to pass through for the event, which had a variety of activities like wine tasting, face painting, tours of the premises and interaction with bee experts.

Bob Liptrot, co-owner of Tugwell Creek Farm and Meadery and life-long bee farmer, said the purpose of holding the event was to build public awareness on bees and their prominent role in food production.

“We’re really trying to get a message across to the public that bees are an integral part of agriculture,” he said. “They’re critical to the well-being of the food supply chain, without honey bees and the other pollinators… our food diversity would diminish greatly.”

With 30 per cent of food coming from pollinators, Liptrot said products like fruits, vegetables and even dairy and beef would be negatively impacted from the disappearance of bees and pollinators.

“Without pollinators we’ll be seriously compromised, and I don’t know if it will be the end of humanity like some people predict, but it would definitely make it a lot harder to subsist.”

In addition to producing honey and mead, the business is involved in a nation-wide project to breed a stronger genetics of bees and is a strong participant in the TLC Land Conservancy’s Pollinator Enhancement Project.

Liptrot said of the 12 acres of land, only one third is cultivated for use. The remaining eight acres are reserved, and left untouched to create natural habitats for bees and other wildlife like birds and bears.

Nathalie Chamber, TLC Land Conservancy program assistant for agricultural programs, said Liptrot and his partner Dana LeComte are often mentioned as exemplars in regards to bee conservation.

“Essentially they’re amazing farmers… the amount of biodiversity on their farm is perfect for keeping the habitat necessary for the bees.”

According to Chamber, bees have seen a decline of 90 per cent on Vancouver Island in the past three years.

She said the situation has worsened after the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture lifted a 22-year-old ban restricting the import of bees onto Vancouver Island in April 2010. Lifting the quarantine meant potentially diseased bees could introduce infections into local honey bee colonies and native species on the island that did not exist before.

In an effort to help the dire strait of native bee species, the TLC Land Conservancy has adopted a three step approach: one, recognize and protect bee habitats; two, plant flowering plants for bees to pollinate, particularly between February to November when native bees forage; and three, leave toxic pesticides aside.

The Tugwell Creek Farm and Meadery was the first meadery to open its doors to the public in 2003 in Western Canada, and is currently being reformatted to become an ecomuseum.

The farm is located on 8750 West Coast Road and more information is available at: www.tugwellcreekfarm.com

For bee conservation tips, visit the TLC Land Conservancy blog at: http://bit.ly/dOYvV5