Barry Denluck left

Barry Denluck left

Hive on the Drive

Bustling honey operation thrives on Beach Drive

A buzzing duplex, population 20,000, would be unexpected in Oak Bay.

John Jordan has one in his Beach Drive garden.

“This is really the heart of local food supply. This is the heart of the engine right here,” says Jordan, gesturing to honeybees zipping to and from their home created by bee master Barry Denluck.

Jordan came to beekeeping in a roundabout way through a trip to Rwanda. He travels there every year for a project he and his wife Toni work on, and few years ago, he discovered beekeeping while there. He returned home bent on finding out more about the hobby.

A plus: Toni adores honey.

Jordan started in April with a queen and a pound of bees – between 2,000 and 3,000 individuals – purchased from Denluck, also a bee breeder who selects the strongest of the stock for procreation. Now Jordan’s up to about 20,000 with one queen, and is working on hatching a second queen in the other half of the duplex as the workers start moving into that space as well.

Denluck designed the duplex, and a triplex and fourplex of similar builds, because loss to death is simply too high at 40 to 60 per cent over winter. Some of that can be attributed to inexperienced bee keepers.

“Our climate is also a factor,” he said. His designs are up off the wet grass, entrances are shielded and the walls are twice as thick as the standard hive, among other alterations.

“Most of the time I don’t even wear any equipment,” Jordan says, pulling out a tray laden with honeycomb. “They’re just content.”

With Jordan’s new hive buzzing, Denluck figures he’s about to lose his best honey customer. Denluck gestures to a grove of Linden trees in the distance, dead ahead on the beeline and explains there are more scattered around the neighbourhood.

“You’ve got 1,000 pounds of honey just waiting to be collected,” Denluck says.

The honeybees collect nectar and process the honey all spring and into the summer.

“Then the beekeeper comes along in July and steals it, making sure to leave enough (for the bees) to survive the winter,” Denluck said.

Denluck and fellow beekeepers lobbied, last summer, to get guidelines in place to provide for homeowners to house bees in their gardens. He’s happy to report all municipalities in the CRD now allow for homeowners to keep bees, under varying rules.

Oak Bay’s remain the most stringent, Denluck says. See the bee bylaw online at oakbay.ca. Learn more about Denluck’s work with bees, including swarm relocation, online at capitalregionbeekeepers.ca.

Call the bee hotline 250-900-5133 to learn about swarm relocation services.

Life of a drone

Everyone knows the queen and her workers but who knows what a drone does?

“These guys get away with murder,” says John Jordan with a laugh.

“They’re spoiled. They drift from hive to hive looking for a new girl,” adds Barry Denluck.

But don’t get too worked up about the easy life, once procreation is done, so are they.

 

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