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Nearly 2M bees imported to Vancouver Island from New Zealand

Bees are pictured in North Oyster, Vancouver Island. (CTV News) Bees are pictured in North Oyster, Vancouver Island. (CTV News)

Some 1.75 million bees from New Zealand are acclimatizing to Canada's climate on a farm in North Oyster, Vancouver Island.

The imported bees have been added to a range of domestic hives in the Cowichan Valley, bringing the total to number of bees in the region to 3.5 million.

A team of apiarists from Nanaimo and Saskatchewan are caring for the bees before they are taken to Saskatchewan to begin pollinating canola and other crops.

"With a lot of seasonal variation, that’ll probably be end of April early May-ish, when hopefully the rest of Western Canada is thawed out a little bit more," said apiary technician Ryan Oman as he stood among the buzzing bees that he's helping care for.

The warmer temperatures on the island are ideal, but the lack of blooming flowers requires the bees to be fed a sugar-water syrup and artificial pollen.

Oman said New Zealand is considered a safe place to import bees from as it only exports bees and does not import them.

The need to import bees is due to a continued die-off in Canada caused most likely by mites.

"Varroa destructor, it causes havoc on the hive," said Oman.

"It’s a tricky one to deal with too. We’re starting to see resistance to a lot of common place treatments. You have to be smart to deal with the mite."

Oman says importing will continue until Canadian beekeepers are able to produce enough bees to share with others in the business.

As challenging as keeping bees can be, Oman says it is rewarding.

"If you like working with your hands, if you like biology, if you like science, if you like nature, it’s cool that way," he said.

"Anyone who tells you they know everything about beekeeping, they’re lying to you, because there’s always something to learn," he added. Top Stories

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