As soon as the name honey bee is spoken, the vast majority of people start thinking of the golden product that they produce. This is quite understandable as Canada produced over $201M worth of which Nova Scotia’s share was a little over $1.5M from our 330 beekeepers with 23,000 hives (Stats Canada figures). However, this is just one of the major revenue streams that is available to beekeepers.
The other major revenue stream is pollination. In accordance with the largest blueberry grower in Nova Scotia, we need 31,000 hives to reach the full potential of the province’s blueberry fields. At an average of $150 fee per hive, the potential revenue for NS beekeepers is $4.65M, over three times the value of honey production. This figure does not take into account the remainder of the fruit growing and market garden pollination requirements. Currently, the shortage of hives is made up by importing, under permit and inspection, hives from other provinces which are then returned. Although these bees are inspected, it is on a percentage basis. This will eventually erode the credibility of the province’s ban on the importation of honey bees.
While there is considerable potential here, there are also some significant challenges. Cost and cash flow for growing operations are probably the ones that come to mind immediately. It takes time and capital to build from a small operation to a large one. The leap of faith from giving up your day job to doing bees full time relies heavily on these two factors. In addition, Mother Nature likes to throw some challenges at you as well, culling your herd, testing your lifting skills and dumping rain down to ensure that your truck gets stuck at 4:00 am because you have to get the bees to the fields 200 km away! Contrast this with the small honey producing operation that visits their hives on warm sunny days.
While there are challenges, there are rewards. If you are considering expanding, a deliberate, well thought out business plan is required. There is an opportunity here for our beekeepers to keep pollination fees inside the province and increase their revenues. For those concerned about the importation of bees into the province, providing enough bees from within will negate the requirement for blueberry growers to import them.