Bees, wasps feel habitat loss from Fiona in PEI

CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI – For PEI residents who have seen a sharp increase in bee-to-bee encounters over the past few weeks, post-tropical storm Fiona may be to blame.

Christine Noronha, an entomologist with Agriculture and Rural Development Canada, told the Saltwire Network that the spike in wasp sightings is largely due to habitat loss following the storm that hit the province on Sept. 23-24.

“Any bees that normally tend to nest at this time of year are probably just flying away,” Noronha said on Oct. 11.

A booming bee population is typical in PEI this time of year, but due to the large number of trees lost during Fiona, many of their nests were destroyed, leaving them confused and aggravated.

As a rule, September and early October is the mating season for bees. The queen produces male and female eggs, which cause the worker wasps to reproduce and mate.

Females then find a place to hibernate. In the spring, they emerge to create a new nest.

PEI Beekeepers Association President Troy Fraser said it is critical to repair damaged beehives on the island before the cold weather sets in.  - Rafe Wright
PEI Beekeepers Association President Troy Fraser said it is critical to repair damaged beehives on the island before the cold weather sets in. – Rafe Wright

This year, most of the nests built in the summer were destroyed. As a result, workers tend to wander, Noronha said.

“They have been abandoned, they don’t know what to do. “They are not aggressive, but there are many of them,” he said.

While it is likely that populations will recover over time, it is unclear what this means for PEI’s ecosystem in the spring, as bees are also responsible for pollination.

“It will have an impact,” Noronha said. “The population is going to suffer, there’s a lot of habitat loss for these species, but as long as there’s food for them to feed on in the spring, they’re doing pretty well at coming back.”


“They’re out for a free meal, whether it’s protein or sugar. If you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you.” – Troy Fraser President of the PEI Beekeepers Association


Bee populations

Honey bees and bumblebees are a different story.

When a honey bee hive collapses, the queen will leave the hive and the workers will follow. Bees then build nests in places like porches, sheds, or hollow trees known as wild hives.

Bees also mate early in the season, so it would be rare to see a swarm of bees at this time of year. Also, most honey bees in PEI are in artificial hives in bee farms.

Beehive sheds at the Urban Beehive Project in Charlottetown remain damaged on October 11.  - Rafe Wright
Beehive sheds at the Urban Beehive Project in Charlottetown remain damaged on October 11. – Rafe Wright

Troy Fraser, president of the PEI Beekeepers Association, told the SaltWire Network that his hives survived the storm with minimal damage, but other beekeepers he knows weren’t so lucky.

“The victims didn’t have enough time to properly prepare,” Fraser said on October 11.

Fraser knows keepers who own several properties that contain thousands of bees that have suffered significant damage.

“Many beekeepers have several yards, sometimes dozens of hives. That means traveling to each of them so you can get them ready in a short amount of time,” Fraser said.

With cold weather approaching, if the hives are not repaired soon, the future of these bees’ lives is uncertain.

“If they are exposed to the elements at this time of year and for a long period of time, they will certainly perish. They won’t be able to come back because they’ll just die,” Fraser said.

Advance preparation

With larger and more aggressive storms likely to hit the province more often, preparing for such weather events requires advanced warning so that rangers have a chance to protect hives in advance.

“I think it’s kind of an eye-opener for a lot of people to think about what they’re going to do differently next time. “The more time we have before the storm, the further we will go.”

The Urban Beehive Project in Charlottetown houses thousands of bees in hives like this one.  this hive remains outside while the barn is being repaired.  - Rafe Wright
The Urban Beehive Project in Charlottetown houses thousands of bees in hives like this one. this hive remains outside while the barn is being repaired. – Rafe Wright

Fraser’s advice to anyone concerned about increasing numbers of bees and wasps in the community is to leave them alone.

Over time, bees and bumblebees will disappear on their own to find a place to hibernate.

“They’re just trying to survive the winter and settle in,” he said.

If residents discover a hive on their property, it’s best to wait until winter to deal with it while the bees are hibernating.

Otherwise, there’s no cause for alarm, Fraser added.

“They’re out for a free meal, whether it’s protein or sugar. If you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you.”


Rafe Wright is a reporter for the Indigenous Journalism Initiative, a position covered by the federal government. He writes about climate change issues for the SaltWire Network in Prince Edward Island and can be reached by email. [email protected] and followed on Twitter @wright542.

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