Wednesday, April 23rd12.7°C

The bees are still buzzing

The population of honeybees has recently been declining around the world, but one expert in the field says that is not the case in the Okanagan.

Victor Macdonald, with Bees Incorporated, is a breeder of bees, specifically the Victorian Queen Bee which has responded well to the beekeeping challenges of today. He is also a past president of the Capital Beekeepers Association and teaches courses in beekeeping.

Macdonald says it’s amazing how many beekeepers there are in the Okanagan, he's even formed the BBC (Backyard Beekeepers Club).

“It’s increased tremendously and there’s definitely not a decline in bees in the Okanagan,” he says.

Macdonald points to the number of beekeepers and the level of interest that continues to grow in the area, adding that he just finished a two-day class for 15 new members.

“Each one of those 15 individuals I guarantee will be taking up beekeeping and getting a hive of their own,” says Macdonald, who suggests each student get two hives.

“Each one will be starting with a nucleus colony. As a result of that, you’ve got 30 new colonies in the Okanagan area. This weekend we have another course again where those people will be added onto the BBC and it just grows and grows. We’ve got over 200 members already.”

Bees Incorporated tries to hold three classes per month, and there is already a waiting list beginning to grow.

While these types of hives and colonies could thrive in the coming years, that is not the case with the bees which are typically found in nature.

“Those bees unfortunately are going to succumb to the biggest problem in beekeeping and that is the bee mite. It is called the varroa destructor and it’s a problem around the world,” he says.

“If you can control the varroa destructor in your hive, you’re going to be a good bee keeper, if you do not, you’re going to find problems.”

This parasitic mite attaches itself to the body of the bee and weakens it by spreading a virus. A significant mite infestation will lead to the death of a honeybee colony, usually in the late autumn through early spring.

Macdonald says many of the new beekeepers he meets are also orchardists or berry growers from around the province who will use the bees to pollinate their crops.

He also delivers bee colonies to certain orchards, but would not share information of which orchards, or how many he deals with.

“Bee keepers make more money from pollinating than they do from producing honey," he said with a laugh.

Fred Steele of the BC Fruit Growers' Association also says he's been watching the bee situation from afar, but has not had any orchardists voice their concerns since taking over as president earlier this year.


BC wines going global

It may come as no surprise to those of us in the Okanagan that BC produces some award winning wines, but now the rest of the world may have to sit up and take notice.

In an attempt to ensure BC can compete internationally, as well as on a domestic market, the Federal Government has announced an investment of $2 million to the grape and wine sector.

MP Ron Cannan for Kelowna-Lake Country made the announcement at Grey Monk Winery Tuesday, on behalf of Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

With this investment from AAFC's AgriInnovation Program, the British Columbia Wine Grape Council (BCWGC) will be able to better compete on both domestic and international markets. It will also help to meet evolving consumer demands and tastes and boost producers' bottom line by improving quality and yields, while reducing losses from pests and diseases, explains Cannan.

"The grape and wine sector is an important part of our economy in my riding of Kelowna–Lake Country and across Canada. Improving wine grape quality as well as controlling pests will boost the sector's competitiveness and exporter profitability."
This investment builds on previous support of $2 million provided to BCWGC under the Developing Innovative Agri-Products (DIAP) initiative, for a project to help improve irrigation and nutrient management in order to achieve the highest vine and fruit quality.

A wine maker for Grey Monk Estate Winery says the industry will stretch the money to include new research, but how long the money lasts will depend on each program.

“A lot of our research can’t be done in one year, it is not a one season thing. It has to be how the affects are cumulated over some of the years,” says Roger Wong.

“As much as you can grow a grape one year, you don’t see the results for another year or two years after that.”

Mike Watson, Chair of BC Wine Grape Council, says this investment allows the BC wine industry to work closely with scientists at PARC, the University of British Columbia, and UBC Okanagan to develop research programs where the results can be directly transferred to viticulturists and winemakers.

“This work will have a positive impact on the quality of wine produced, as well as the profitability and sustainability of our industry."

The AgriInnovation Program is a five-year initiative, worth up to $698 million under the Growing Forward 2 policy framework, which is designed to accelerate the pace of innovation by supporting research and development activities in agri-innovations.

The BC wine industry brought over $54 million in sales to the farm gate and generates exports of almost $8 million –- an increase of over $6 million during the past six years.


Busy day for COSAR

Viewer video by Nicole Gray shows part of the dramatic rescue.

The Central Okanagan Search and Rescue team had a busy start to the week, as they were called out to two different emergencies on Monday.

Around 3 p.m. they responded to an injured mountain biker in West Kelowna, near Carre Road.

A man believed to be in his mid-20’s went off a 40-foot jump, on purpose, but he crashed as his bike broke apart on impact.

“He landed the jump perfectly, but the forks on his bike snapped, and he ended up going down and landing on the right side of his face and on his chest,” says Duane Tresnich with COSAR.

“The injuries were quite severe that once BC Ambulance got in there, it was decided that we were going to fly him out through our helicopter rescue team.”

The mountain biker was flown to a waiting ambulance, where he was transferred to KGH.

Later that same evening COSAR was again called after two people became lost near Westside Road.

“A couple of kids went up exploring the area around Bear Creek in a small car and ended up getting stuck in one of the snow packs,” says Tresnich.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t find them very quickly because the information that was being passed from his phone (was not accurate) and when we pinged his phone, put him 20 kilometres away.”

The pair was finally picked up around 4:30 Tuesday morning.

“They were a little hungry, a little cold, but besides that they were fine.”

Tresnich has some words of warning for people exploring the back country: Don’t solely rely on a phone’s GPS, and make sure you carry enough food and water to get through the next 24 hours in case disaster strikes.

Send photos and video to [email protected]



Earth Day activities

Community cleanups are planned for all over the world Tuesday, as residents celebrate Earth Day by showing their support for environmental protection.

The annual event challenges people to promote solutions for a healthier environment and participants typically engage in a day of spring-cleaning around their home, business or favourite green space.

If you'd like to get involved, the Regional Waste Reduction Office wants to remind everyone that they have all the gear and supplies you’ll need. Staff will even arrange to pick up the litter filled bags after you’re done.

“Many groups have done clean ups on or close to Earth Day over the years. But whether it’s for Earth Day, or any time in April, it’s always inspiring to see so many people committed to making a difference,” says Waste Reduction Facilitator Rae Stewart.

“The impact we can make in a short amount of time when we pull together with a little elbow grease and determination is really encouraging.”

Some groups dedicate their time each and every year, like the North Westside Community Association, whose members have cleaned up a 30-kilometer stretch of Westside Road for over 15 consecutive years.

Other groups that have already participated in clean ups this spring include over 200 students at Kelowna Senior Secondary, Best Western Hotel Kelowna, the Lakes Community Association in Oyama, Tallus Ridge residents, the Oyama Community Club, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Willowstone Academy Preschool, Pelmewash Parkway residents group, and countless individual families.

If you would like to do a cleanup in your area, the Regional Waste Reduction Office will provide bags, gloves and pick up of litter filled bags after you’re done. You can also call their office for more information (250-469-6250).

The Downtown Kelowna Association has also teamed up with Sun Valley Cleaners for a day of spring-cleaning on Tuesday.

Sun Valley will be volunteering their time and their pressure washing trucks, while DKA staff will be armed with brooms, hoses and brushes to assist in the effort. They’re encouraging all shop keepers and businesses to help with the cleanup. More information can be found by emailing [email protected]

The cleanup begins at 9 a.m.

Residents in Summerland and the surrounding area are also encouraged to take part in a local Earth Day Event on April 27.

Members of the Summerland Environmental Science Group, the District of Summerland and SADI (Summerland Asset Development Initiative) are targeting the Dale Meadows Sports Complex for Summerland's eighth annual Earth Day Event. These groups are working to enhance the natural habitats that border the sports fields and connect to Prairie Creek.

“This is the sixth year these groups have partnered to focus on the Dale Meadows area, and it’s become a legacy project for Summerland,” says event coordinator, Lisa Scott.

“It’s exciting to see the results of the previous years. Some of the willow, alder and dogwood planted back in 2009 are huge.”

The are planning a general cleanup that will include the removal of invasive plants. These will be replaced by native trees and shrubs that would naturally be found in the area.

There will be several booths with information on endangered species and habitats, invasive plants, landscaping with native plants and more. Children will be entertained with several interactive activities and face painting.

Community volunteers are being asked to join in and assist with the planting and removal of invasive plants. Volunteers are asked to bring their own shovels and rakes. Free gardening gloves will be provided to the first 30 volunteers.

“One of the key objectives of Summerland’s Earth Day celebration is to raise awareness and inspire environmental action. We always promote this as a family event in the hopes that people of all ages will participate and realize that they can make a difference,” says Scott.

Activities will begin at 10 a.m. and continue for approximately three hours.

People are welcome to drop by anytime during that period and anyone participating will be able to enter a draw for some eco-friendly products compliments of local retailers, and also enjoy a pizza lunch at the close of the event.

For further information about this event contact Lisa Scott at 250-404-0115 or email [email protected]

This is one of many events taking place in Summerland during Earth Week, April 22 – 27.

OK College better than OK

If the future of our region is dependent on a skilled workforce, the Okanagan is in good shape. Nearly a dozen Okanagan College trades and technology students have returned home after podium finishes at the BC Skills Canada competition, held earlier this month in Abbotsford.
The College earned 11 medals (three gold, four silver and four bronze) in a series of timed high-pressure skills competitions ranging from Automotive Collision Repair to IT Network Systems Administration.
“I’m extremely proud of the results of our students,” said Jim Hamilton, President of Okanagan College. “The Skills BC competition is a great measure of how our students perform in the real world. They are faced with hands-on applied challenges and are given a set amount of time to make repairs, trouble shoot and come up with relevant solutions. The medals are evidence of our students’ skills and the great instruction they receive.” 
Winners of the provincial competition are eligible to compete at the nationals, held in June in Toronto. The Okanagan College students who will represent the province in Toronto are: Vernon’s Dominique Zimmermann, gold in Aircraft Maintenance; Kelowna’s Ken Anderson, gold in Automotive Service; and James Webber, gold in Electronics, also from Kelowna.
For the second year in a row Okanagan College swept the Electronic Engineering competition, taking all three podium spots. It’s the third year the College has competed in this category; each year students from the program have returned with medals. The College earned gold, silver and bronze in 2013 and took home a silver and bronze in 2012.
“I am really excited to support Dominique at the national competition,” said AME M instructor and coach Dale Martell. “After winning the provincial competition I’m feeling very confident about how he’ll do in Toronto. We’ve been sending students to the Skills competition for three years and are yet to return without medals. Dominique and Derek are no exception. They are both great students who can work independently and will be a huge asset to the industry.”
Other medalists include: Derek Volling, Aircraft Maintenance (bronze); Russell Relling, Automotive Collision Repair (silver); Jay Kendrick, Automotive Collision Repair (bronze); Nick Spottock, Automotive Service (bronze); Christopher Dalton, Carpentry (silver); Josh Wams, Electronics (silver); Alex Pelton, Electronics (bronze); Bryer Edwards, IT Network Systems Administration (silver).

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