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Cold temperatures impacting bees – and Langley farmers

Pollination may take a hit if things don’t warm up later this spring
Alf Krause said the cold temperatures are keeping bees from pollinating some berry crops, which may have an impact if things don’t warm up. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

The bees aren’t exactly buzzing this spring in Langley, and that poses some problems for local farmers who rely on pollination for their crops.

“I can’t remember one that’s been this cold for this long,” said Alf Krause of Krause Berry Farm. He’s been farming in Langley for decades, growing a variety of berries in the North Otter area.

As of mid-May, snow was still falling on mountains on the North Shore and on highways in the Interior, and the ski runs on Grouse Mountain were open.

In Langley, that meant cool temperatures and people bundled up in coats. On farms, there’s a concern about some crops.

“It’s too cold even for the bees to fly,” Krause said.

Honeybees, the kind that live in large hives, prefer temperatures in the mid- to high-teens before they get out to gather nectar and pollinate plants, Krause said.

But there’s only been a handful of days with temperatures that high as of mid-May.

On Thursday, May 12, Krause noted that the bees above his blueberry fields seem to be mostly bumblebees, which can tolerate lower temperatures, or mason bees.

Without pollination, there won’t be blueberries. However, Krause noted that the cold temperatures have also slowed down growth and delayed flowering. The flowers are now out on the blueberries, but everything is about 10 days to two weeks behind schedule.

READ ALSO: Cherry farmers worried by unseasonably cold temperatures in British Columbia

There’s also been quite a bit of rain. Krause noted that normally by this time of the month, he’s wondering if it’s time to start irrigating, but instead there was more rain in the forecast.

Down in South Langley, at the Vista D’Oro vineyard and winery, the grapes should be okay, said Patrick Murphy, the grower and winemaker.

“The grapes are definitely stalled a little bit, but I’m not too worried about it.”

The grapes should catch up in the summer, but the fruit trees on the farm could face bigger troubles.

Vista D’Oro also makes fruit preserves, and has five acres of cherries, pears, apples and plums.

It’s the same issue there as at Krause Berry Farm.

“I’ve noticed the amount of bees pollinating is quite down,” said Murphy.

That’s despite the fact that there are plenty of hives nearby.

If the trees don’t produce enough fruit, they’ll have to supplement what they grow on-site by purchasing more fruit from elsewhere.

It won’t be a total disaster – there are multiple varietals of fruit trees, and some of them blossom and are harvested later, so they should be fine as things warm up.

Over at Krause Berry Farm, there has also been some frost damage to the strawberries. That could be a good thing – fewer blossoms mean more widely-spaced and larger berries come summer.

But it could also mean less foliage on the plants to give produce the berries.

“It’s too early to say,” Krause said of the season overall.

He noted that even if it does get much warmer in late May or June, there won’t be any big “catch up” for the plants. They’ll still need time to grow, so everything will be happening later this year.

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Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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