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Freshwater bee farmer 'beelieves' NL integral to healthy population

Some nurse bees on G&M Farms drawing out some queen cells, and feeding queen larvae.
Some nurse bees on G&M Farms drawing out some queen cells, and feeding queen larvae.

FRESHWATER — The worldwide bee population has seen a significant decrease as of late, but G&M Farms in Freshwater is doing its part to help counteract that

Bees storing dandelion pollen in the hives. Smith says dandelions are an important early source of food for honeybees, and urges people to think twice before plucking them.

Gerard Smith, who was born and raised in the community, has been raising bees on his farm for the past four years, after spending several years at it in Nova Scotia.

G&M Farms is currently renovating their buildings to house more bees with state-of-the-art technology to get the most out of their bees, while keeping them happy at the same time.

Smith’s father was also a bee farmer, and Smith says it’s something of a family business – one that he’s more than proud to be a part of.

“It’s a process. There are some good days, great days,” said Smith, “but then there are hard days too. Like anything, I suppose. But I love it, and it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. Working seven days a week at this farm just makes me happy, so it’s never felt like work.”

Gerard Smith wanted to be a bee farmer his entire life, and is proud of what G&MFarms has accomplished thus far.

The farm produces, as one would expect, honey. However, they also sell candles made of beeswax from the hives and offer courses in summer on the secrets of beekeeping. The course consists of two 10-hour days of hands-on experience, where students learn how to properly handle all types of bees in a natural environment and acquire all the necessary skills for beekeeping.

With this training under their belt, people can go about setting up a small bee farm in their own backyard. G&M Farms also provides all the necessary equipment for up and coming beekeepers, which they build and manufacture on the farm.

Smith says that beekeeping as a hobby can really help fight the declining global bee population.

Under the proper circumstances, queen bees can lay up to 3,000 eggs per day, according to beekeeper Gerard Smith.

“Even a small hive in your backyard can be really beneficial,” explained Smith. “That one hive can have a lot of bees – queen bees can lay up to 3,000 eggs a day, under the right circumstances – so being able to keep track of that many bees so easily can do a lot for the bee population.”

The decline in bees worldwide, known as Colony Collapse Disorder, can be attributed to several things, including pesticides, fungicides, and antibiotics, climate change, or small pests that spread disease between bees. Four of the major pests that are known to contribute to these diseases are tracheal mites, small hive beetles, wax moths, and varroa mites, which are considered to be the number one enemy of beekeepers worldwide.

That is, except for in Newfoundland.

For that, beekeepers in Newfoundland can thank something known as the importation ban.

G&M Farms has been running in Newfoundland for the past four years.

Ban benefits

The importation ban makes it illegal to import honeybees or bee related products into the province without a proper license. Any bees that are imported are quarantined for 12 months and inspected on a daily basis.

During inspection, the bees are searched to ensure they do not carry any diseases, such as the black queen cells virus, chronic bee paralysis, or deformed wing virus. They are also inspected to make sure they are not carrying any dangerous pests.

The importation ban is something beekeepers across the province fight to maintain, and it is because of the ban that Newfoundland has such a healthy bee population, despite the cold climates and short honey harvesting season.

Some of Smith’s queen bee insemination technology, which is integral to maintaining happy and productive bee colonies.

“Bees contribute to a third of our food sources,” Smith told The Compass. “I don’t think many people realize that. If all the bees were to die out, it would have a very, very big impact on the way we live our lives, right down to the foods we eat. Bees surviving means us surviving.”

G&M Farms has spent a lot of time and money into making sure they are able to maintain a top-notch beekeeping facility.

Smith has purchased various technology to help maintain happy, calm, productive bees on his farm. Some of this technology includes queen insemination devices that allow him to pick and choose traits from some of the best bees, ultimately making hives full of bees bred to work as hard as they can.

G&M Farms provides several products and services, including candles made from beeswax.

“We care a lot about the bees here. We’re dealing with thousands and thousands of bees, and so this technology lets us really keep control over how our bees act. You don’t want violent or angry bees, so if you end up with an angry queen, this technology makes it so that we can pinch that queen, and get a new queen for that colony with better traits. The other bees in the hive will act as she does, so this small change makes a world of difference when it comes to handling them,” explained Smith.

G&M Farms is currently working on some upgrades, including a new room to house several bee colonies at a time.
Smith looks forward to offering more beekeeping courses on the farm, and ultimately adding to the bee population and doing his part to fight the current colony collapse.

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