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  1. #1
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    Default Ontario Blueberry Pollination

    I just recently spoken to a producer who was telling me about the possible blueberry pollination opportunity in Northern Ontario. By the sounds of it they will need to be aggressive to drum up enough hives to satisfy their pollination requirements. Looking at a May-June pollination time frame.

    Whats the word out there from my fellow Canadian beekeepers!
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  2. #2
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    Dec 2013
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    Arras, British Columbia, Canada
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    Default Re: Ontario Blueberry Pollination

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian View Post
    I just recently spoken to a producer who was telling me about the possible blueberry pollination opportunity in Northern Ontario. By the sounds of it they will need to be aggressive to drum up enough hives to satisfy their pollination requirements. Looking at a May-June pollination time frame.

    Whats the word out there from my fellow Canadian beekeepers!
    Ian,

    Times have changed and the dollar figure is larger but I used to do pollination with my dad in the Greater Vancouver area in the late 80's early 90's. We ran up to 500 hives and did Raspberries, Cranberries, and Blueberries. I can honestly say it probably isn't worth it for less than $125-$150 a hive. Back then we were lucky to get $20-$30 bucks a hive.

    It is really subjective and I don't know the geographical area or the farmer you will be working for but as I recall:

    Farmers could care less about your bees.
    Farmers will spray when and where they feel like it regardless of your bees or the people (I have been sprayed while trying to move hives).
    Farmers will tell you 48 hours notice to move hives before they get your bees. After they get your bees you will get less than 12 hours notice to move them.
    Farmers will stall your payments or attempt to pay less than the agreed amount.
    Farmers think that your bees have to be 50 feet from what they are pollinating so they will make you spread hives all over the place and in silly locations.
    Farmers will hit your hives with spray booms and tractors, then they will deny everything and complain that your bees stung them or their workers.

    Beekeepers in the area that specialize in pollination:
    There will be bad ones.
    They will have every disease imaginable.
    They will steal your equipment and bees.
    They will slag you and badmouth you as an intruder.
    They will attempt to undercut you at every corner, hence the farmers wanting to pay less after the fact.

    Barring all that, the honey from blueberries is nice but it is darker.
    Blueberries are probably the most valuable pollination crop for a beekeeper. The hives could make a super of honey if weather co-operates.
    If the bees are not stressed too badly during transportation they will thrive.

    I'm no Deity in this forum with disciples interpreting passages of the bible based on my advice but this is my experience and opinion.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Ontario Blueberry Pollination

    I mostly agree with Jodie. Growers are slightly more respectful towards beekeepers now. Demand for bees has gone up, supply has not quit kept up... so growers sorta have to play nice.

    As far as blueberry pollination in Northern Ontario goes, I could be persuaded for the right money. I kinda thought low bush blueberry was end of may into mid to late June. The later dates coincide when guys should be putting on honey supers. The Manitoba beekeepers are closest and could service them but I would think they would loose 1-2 boxes of honey for their efforts.

    Ian, do you know if the farms are large? Hard to service the bees if they are scattered say 10 hours from home and 100 here , 50 there half hour away, another 70 there 1.5 hours away etc. Throw in a few bears in the mix, little to no nectar...pollination might not seem so easy anymore.

    I agree with you Ian in that growers will need to be aggressive to attract beekeepers. Plenty of cash, possibly unloading beehives into the barrens, and loading hives back on the highway truck for the trip back home would help entice some. It is a different game than honey production. Many prairie beekeepers are stationary and are not really equipped to move bees for long hauls. Even though they may own forklifts there focus has been honey production and not pollination, so there would be a learning curve. The most obvious thing that comes to mind is the use of telescoping lids. They still seem to be very popular on the prairies but in my experience cause nothing but troubles when moving bees on long hauls.

    I just do not see too many wanting in especially at $2.25/pound honey.

    Jean-Marc

  4. #4
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    Arras, British Columbia, Canada
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    Default Re: Ontario Blueberry Pollination

    Jean Marc,
    I couldn't help but google you. I had heard of your apiary but I didn't put 2n2 together. I did find an article from the Georgia Straight from 2007.

    http://www.straight.com/news/are-bcs...ies-latest-die

    Funny how they mentioned neonics even back then.

    Could you attribute any of your losses cited in this article to pesticide in the blueberry fields or was it Nosema Ceranae?

    By the way I have respect for anyone who makes a living down there in pollination. (You have my respect and admiration and so does Ian.)

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Ontario Blueberry Pollination

    Jean-Marc , it apparently a grower from Nova Scotia and the size if operation apparently is huge. I say apparently because this is all second hand information. Large enough that they will not find enough hives.

    As you mention Jean-Marc the biggest problem they will have is trying to convince beekeepers to sacrifice the start if their main flows, and with honey well north if $2, that's going to be a hard sell .

    All points for consideration;
    The opportunity close to here. With the projected large number of acres they will have to be aggressive finding hives. The grower is one of the large operators in Nova Scotia so experience is an asset here. The time frame definitely doable for proper hive build up, end of May-June. I'd have two boxes of bees for sure by then .

    You know, I'd make up a semi load of double deep 10 framers, two or three lbs of patties on top. I'd have to make sure they had a pail of feed into them. Get my $175 per hive and bring them back to the canola flow to recover to which I'd pull another two boxes of honey on.
    I think I'd do it.

  6. #6
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    Feb 2014
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    Ottawa, ON
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    Default Re: Ontario Blueberry Pollination

    The attached link will take you to studies and plans for development of the low bush blueberry industry in Northeastern Ontario.
    http://nsfc.ca/nsfc/ntfp/project-wild-blueberries
    The potential is significant as are the challenges. It is 10-12 hours driving from most of Ontario's beekeeper community. Likewise from Manitoba.

    Regards Peter
    Ottawa. ON

  7. #7
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    antigonish, nova scotia, canada
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    25

    Default Re: Ontario Blueberry Pollination

    Ian
    that would be braggs i believe they go under oxford frozen food they have holdings in ontario. Braggs is a giant in the low bush blueberry in nova scotia i would bet half if not more of rented bees in nova scotia get rented to them and they have a few thousand of there own hives
    34 hives, 5 years

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Ontario Blueberry Pollination

    I would wonder at what price it would take to pull enough hives to pollinate that landscape

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Ontario Blueberry Pollination

    Jodie: Back in 2007 I am pretty sure it was the start of the ccd thing. We had sudden unexplained losses of adult bees. Nosema Ceranae is definitely associated with this as are amoebas and protozoa's. My friend from Caspian Apiaries has been talking about this for the last 6 years. Funny thing , last year at the Alberta convention one beekeeper spoke of also having sky high amoeba levels in his bees. The bees are able to overcome these issues if being fed Caspian Solution along with a protozoa killer. It is an additive of plant extracts added to the Caspian solution.

    Back to blueberry pollination, I think Ian answered his own question. $175 is the magic number for him.I think at that price some could be attracted. Keep in mind that northeastern Ontario is maybe 20 hours away by truck. Nova Scotia is probably 36 or so hours. 20 hours is far and bees, but 36 is another kettle of fish. At that time of year temperatures can get very warm, even hot. If going 36 hours the trucker would have to have 2 drivers. I think the fees would be steep. The aren't too many trucking outfits in Canada that have experience with this sort of thing.

    However it plays out for you personally it is not the kind of undertaking that is too be taken lightly. I can guarantee that it would not be boring.

    Jean-Marc

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Ontario Blueberry Pollination

    what is a" protozoa killer."....antibiotic?

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Ontario Blueberry Pollination

    Quote Originally Posted by jean-marc View Post

    Back to blueberry pollination, I think Ian answered his own question. $175 is the magic number for him.
    The way I see it, I would run a honey operation and a pollination operation. The honey op is what I have going now. The pollination op would be hives made up, wintered, worked to strength and sent for pollination for $175. Those hives then would come back in rough shape to where the canola will revive them, split and then have them worked into winterable hives to be used for pollination the following year.
    They would represent the same work as a nuc sale operation but the bees come back. Get some honey to boot.

    Transportation, and contracting out the hives handling would all have to considered.
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Ontario Blueberry Pollination

    The protozoa killer is a plant extract which is highly acidic, combined with sea salt. Makes it difficult for unwanted microorganisms in the bees digestive to thrive.

    Jean-Marc

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Ontario Blueberry Pollination

    With the current price of honey and the way you are able to stack the suppers on as shown in your pics I'm at a loss as to why are you even considering this. What is your yearly average. Long trips are hard on people and on bees. At the current price of honey 3 shallows off of a hive close to home out to more than equal your $175 offer. Ask $225 with a whimper in your voice and see if they bite. If the hook doesn't sink tell them to have a nice day and that you are open to offers commiserate with your lost opportunities back home.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Ontario Blueberry Pollination

    I hear you Honey-4-All !

    Consider this though, I'm running my honey operation at its max right now. Thats all I have got for now, 1000 hives honey production has me floored. If I can keep one of my guys in the brood nests and make up 600 nucs through the summer to supply a pollination contract, then that's 100 G's slapped on my lap for a bit of brood work. Guys will diversify their income with making up nucs for sale. This is exactly the same, other than we get the hives back.

    and ya, I like $225 better!

    Just thinking out loud is all...
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Ontario Blueberry Pollination

    Always looks and sounds easier before one gets on the riding side of the bull. If you have responsible help who can do it without hand holding go for it. How are you tapped out on the honey side of things?

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Ontario Blueberry Pollination

    we will harvest 150000 - 200000 lbs in about four weeks, and if we dont it hardens in the comb... I need more honey equipment, more extracting equipment, more trucks, more help, more facility space, more hours in our 15 hour days...

    dont get me wrong, Im not suggesting for a second pollination is easy , especially when I'd be sending them away for someone else to handle... I have zero experience here. But it is money that would stream from a different source, and it would help keep guys busy through out the first term of the seasons employment where as we wait for the work load of the flows.
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Ontario Blueberry Pollination

    What % will you need to increase your workforce ( hours) and equipment to bump up your yearly gross by a mere 25%? If I had that much honey waiting to be made seem like a better investment would be found in trying to get the bottlenecks out of the Canola routine by what ever mean possible. I have heard this story countless times from prairie beeks. Its a problem that we in 5 kilo a hive California could only dream if we decided to take a wild LSD trip.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Ontario Blueberry Pollination

    I think it's going to take quite a few years for this blueberry operation to develope the supporting pollination industry it's going to require. Great news for Ontario Beekeepers.

    It's going to be interesting to watch how this all unfolds...

    Because as you know Phil, pollination is easy money right lol

  19. #19
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    bridgewater , nova scotia
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    Default Re: Ontario Blueberry Pollination

    I know I only have a small operation , but I am going for Blueberry pollination in NS and my price is staying @ 145.00 minimum . If I can't that price , they stay home .
    And if you come to NS I hope to meet up with you someday.

    Ben
    Ben Little <The Little Bee Farm> https://www.facebook.com/TheLittleBeeFarm
    Nova Scotia Canada

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Ontario Blueberry Pollination

    Quote Originally Posted by jean-marc View Post
    Throw in a few bears in the mix
    Blueberries are a bear attractant. Talk to any of the numerous fly in fishing folks in that area, what happens to the outcamp if you let any garbage accumulate. Bear problems could be the elephant in the room for this gig.

    Will the grower pay for hives placed in a yard that got hit by bears 3 weeks into a 4 week stay ? If the bees are killed by a spray, at least there is still empty equipment to haul home and start over with. A bear will turn a yard into a total write-off. Can you get by with portable fences ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian View Post
    if we dont it hardens in the comb... I need more honey equipment, more extracting equipment, more trucks, more help, more facility space, more hours in our 15 hour days...
    On the flip side, there is lots of logging in the area between the blueberry patch and your home, it's just outside of the blueberry patch. Your bottleneck seems to be getting canola out of the combs before it crystalizes. If you are already set up with portable fences for the blueberries, dont bring them home right away. Set them in log patches after the blueberries, get a box or more of honey from the fireweed there. When the canola is done, truck em home. Fireweed honey can sit in the combs until the line is done with the canola. Start extracting fireweed when the canola is finished.

    Maybe you dont need more equipment, honey that can be extracted outside of the time window for canola must have some appeal, particularily if blueberries already paid for the round trip.

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