VIDEO: Take a tour of a beehive for Day of the Honeybee

KPU commercial beekeeping instructor, student give a tour of a beehive for Day of the Honeybee

As May comes to a close, the days are growing longer and the flowers in Cloverdale are blooming in the early summer weather—just in time for the Day of the Honeybee on Monday, May 29, and for a dozen local beekeepers-in-training to start their five-month practicums.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s commercial beekeeping course is now in its second year. According to instructor John Gibeau, there’s never been a better time to get into the industry.

“There’s a shortage of beekeepers in British Columbia,” he said. “There’s really a demand. B.C. could easily absorb 200 commercial beekeepers right now.”

That’s a pretty high number, considering there are only four or five beekeepers who make a living solely off of the industry in B.C. – and Gibeau, who owns the Honeybee Centre in Cloverdale, is one of them. But, as Gibeau explains it, B.C. needs more beekeepers.

Alberta has more than 400 beekeepers making a living of it, said Gibeau, and some of their operations have up to 20,000 beehives. The biggest in B.C. is 6,500 hives and it took two generations to get there.

But the beekeeping industry is changing. Sixty years ago, the business of pollination didn’t exist, according to Gibeau, but now it’s the beekeeper’s main business.

For blueberry pollination alone, B.C. imports about 20,000 beehives from Alberta – that’s 800 million bees – every year.

“When my dad was a beekeeper, you kept bees if you wanted honey,” he said. “Now, honey is the by-product and pollination is the main source of value for our bees.”

Gibeau is a beekeeper with more than 50 years of experience. His class at KPU teaches everything from beehive care and colony management to honeybee business planning, management and growth.

After graduating the year-long program, students receive three years of mentorship with the goal of becoming self-reliant in five years.

“Ideally, we hope to produce 12 new beekeepers a year, each who becomes a family owned self-sufficient business with a minimum of 300 beehives,” said Gibeau.

Busy as a beekeeper

Alex Schellenberg first became interested in beekeeping when his mother got a hive for their family farm but was too nervous to go near it.

“She was afraid of being stung, so I took it over,” he said. “I read Beekeeping for Dummies. I didn’t really know what I was looking at, but right away I appreciated it.”

Schellenberg explained the careful dance of smoking a hive before tending to it, and the co-operative nature of the hive’s response. “It’s like a cat putting its ears back,” he said. “They’re all individuals, but they function as a whole. I thought, ‘This is awesome, I need to get into this.’”

He always thought he’d keep bees as a hobby, but “to be honest, this wasn’t even on my radar for a career path,” said Schellenberg.

When Wagner Hills Farm Society asked him to take care of their hives and offered to send him to KPU for the program, Schellenberg agreed.

He’s in practicum right now, and is actually working three beekeeping jobs. He manages the hives at Wagner Hills Farm Society, teaches beekeeping skills to at-risk youth at the Funny Farm and works with Jane’s Honey Bees, a Fraser Valley beekeeping operation. He also does the occasional farmer’s market on the weekend.

“So, pretty busy,” he said, laughing.

In the fall, Schellenberg and his classmates will return to KPU to finish their classes, this time focusing more on the business aspect of beekeeping. From there, he’ll take over the hives at Wagner Hills Farms Society and begin to work towards having his own operation within the next five years.

“I’ll be overseeing the colonies at the farm and training the guys there,” said Shellenberg.

“It’s going to feel good to pass along that knowledge and training in beekeeping that I’ve learned from John.”

Just Posted

Mobility commission investigates how to charge Surrey motorists

32 Avenue and 152 Street considered ‘key congestion area’

VIDEO: Double-decker bus pilot in Langley gets rave reviews

The ceiling is a little low, but other than that, everyone seems to be a fan

Emaciated dog brought to Surrey shelter now healthy and up for adoption

Eclipse came into the Surrey Resource Animal Shelter last summer in skeletal, calloused condition

Comic Strippers return to Surrey’s Bell a year after ‘milestone’ show there

‘That was our biggest show ever,’ says Ken Lawson of male-stripper parody/improv-comedy production

Crash on Highway 10 in Surrey

DriveBC reports the crash happened eastbound, and that the left lane on highway is blocked

Solitary-confinement veto a chance to address mental health: advocate

B.C. Supreme Court made the landmark ruling Wednesday

Winter storm coming to B.C. this weekend

The bets are on as to how much snow the province will actually get in the coming days

B.C. civil rights group files complaint about RCMP arrest of man who later died

Dale Culver, a 35-year-old Indigenous man was arrested in Prince George last July

Lawyer says former B.C. government aide ‘barely guilty’ in ethnic vote scandal

Brian Bonney pleaded guilty to a breach of trust charge

Quite a few tears as homemade quilts distributed to residents of Ashcroft Reserve, Boston Flats affected by last summer’s fire

Quilters in B.C. and Alberta worked through the summer and fall to create more than 100 quilts.

Teachers’ union votes for non-confidence in school board

Lack of action after embattled trustee’s comments created unsafe workplace, Chilliwack teachers claim

Island Health: No need for alarm in wake of Victoria needle-prick incidents

Three incidents in a week prompts meeting between health authority, city service providers

B.C. coast loggers celebrate history, hope for improvement

Truck Loggers Association awaits B.C. NDP government’s new direction

Global Affairs aware of report of two Canadians kidnapped in Nigeria

The foreigners were heading south from Kafanchan to Abuja when they were ambushed around Kagarko

Most Read