A Port Alberni beekeeper is raising funds to rebuild his population of honey bees.
Todd Laplante’s honey has been a staple at Port Alberni farmers’ markets for the past 16 years. Last year, however, Laplante experienced heavy losses of his honey bee colonies.
“Halfway through the summer, I noticed my bees weren’t coming back,” he said. Once winter set in, he lost the rest of them. What started out as 50 colonies has now dwindled down to one derelict hive on his Port Alberni property near the top of Burde Street. Laplante still isn’t sure what caused the loss.
Beekeeping is Laplante’s only source of income, so he has started a fundraiser to help rebuild his business and livelihood. His GoFundMe currently has a $15,000 goal, which would cover the cost of building 20 colonies, as well as replacement equipment and medication for the bees.
Laplante has looked in to government funding, but says he must provide 20 percent of the costs.
Wendi Gilson, a provincial apiary inspector for Vancouver Island, says it’s not unusual to hear of beekeepers losing their colonies over the winter months.
“It’s very common,” she said.
Varroa mites, and the viruses that they vector in, are the most common killers of bees, said Gilson. Environmental degradation can also play a factor.
Laplante said he did treat his hives for mites last year.
“Beekeeping is not as easy as people think,” said Laplante. “It’s trial and error—you never stop learning. There’s always something new.”
Laplante used to work in the forestry industry, but had to retire due to chronic pain. He has now been raising bees and selling honey for 16 years.
“I always had an interest in [beekeeping],” he explained. “I needed to find a home-based business I could do at my own pace.”
To find and donate to Laplante’s fundraiser, search for “Help Todd Laplante rebuild his honey bees” at GoFundMe.com.
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