On April 20th, Worth and I attended our first Edmonton & District Beekeepers Association meeting. It was held at Dr. Medhat Nasr’s (Provincial Apiculturist) conference room north of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton. The meeting was well attended and very informative. We were rather gob-smacked to have direct access to scientists who are on the coal face of pest research and surveillance. We listened carefully and with great interest to the information and research that was presented. There were a number of pests that we would need to be mindful of. We also learned about the new Bee Health App that we could download for free from the Apple App Store or Google play. This is a handy reference tool to “detect, diagnose, manage and treat honey bee diseases and pests.” I see that Dr. Nasr’s email is also listed and I would not hesitate to send him a photo to ask if he would identify a potential abnormality, or disconcerting invader that could potentially wreak havoc within the hive.
During the last couple of weeks in April, I did a bit of research to identify the components we would need for a solar-powered, electric fence. Worth worked on figuring out how to wire the fence to make it electric. One missing item meant a thirty-minute drive to the nearest town. After a couple of phone calls with Bonnie at the UFA in Leduc, an electric fencing package (including a solar Gallagher B200 fencer, metal posts, ground rods, handles, wire, clamps and clips) was ready for us. When we arrived at the UFA, I was quite surprised to find that Bonnie looked somewhat familiar. As it turns out, we had been classmates at the University of Alberta and graduated together in 1990 (BSc. Ag). The trip to Leduc cost around $1300 but I was confident that we purchased quality materials that would not let us down. All we needed now was a battery ($147) to hold the charge created by the solar panel.
Worth and I went over to the Alberta Honey Producers Coop in Spruce Grove (the Bee Maid store). We bought some basic hive equipment, bee suits, gloves, as well as a few other items. Fortunately we already had another hive back at the farm. The bill came to just over $800. This was beginning to be an expensive hobby.
On April 14th, I received an invitation to join the Edmonton Beekeepers Google Group. I would highly recommend signing up since invaluable information can be gained by being part of this group. Malcolm Connell messages, “The purpose of the free Edmonton Bee forum is to make announcements, mentor new beekeepers, buy and sell equipment.” Members can also ask questions… and it is nice to see the more experienced beekeepers come to the rescue.
We have decided to put our New Zealand bees at the Ranch near the family farm. This is a 480 acre property 100 miles north east of Edmonton that is primarily bush with a large meadow. There are also several trails through the bush that my Dad strategically placed throughout the property to allow for easy access to the most remote parts. It is not unusual to see moose or deer pasturing in the meadow. There are also a large number of bears in the immediate area. We always take bear-spray and pack a shotgun for the worst-case scenario. On occasion, we will see a lone wolf or coyote loping off to the safety of the bush as our vehicle approaches.
Our great bee adventure began on April 8th, 2017 when my son, Worth and I got up at the crack of dawn to attend an introductory beekeeping course at Grant McEwan University. Actually, it started at 8:30am and we did have time to sneak in a Starbucks coffee. Organized by the Edmonton and District Beekeepers Association, veteran beekeepers Craig Toth and Malcolm Connell took turns explaining various aspects of practical beekeeping. They had handouts, hives and a wide array of beekeeping equipment. By early afternoon, our heads were chocker full of information and our eyes bright with enthusiasm.