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Master beekeeper Eugene Roman prepares to pull a frame from a hive as beekeeper and son William Roman follows closely behind with a smoker, used to clear the hive at Rosewood Estates' 21st Vineyard and Honey Processing Location in Jordan, Ontario, July 25, 2012. (Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail)
Master beekeeper Eugene Roman prepares to pull a frame from a hive as beekeeper and son William Roman follows closely behind with a smoker, used to clear the hive at Rosewood Estates' 21st Vineyard and Honey Processing Location in Jordan, Ontario, July 25, 2012. (Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail)

Gold rush: Harvesting honey on a wild weather schedule Add to ...

The bees are busy – but not exactly on schedule.

Beekeepers Eugene Roman and his son William began harvesting honey two weeks earlier than usual from their hives in Niagara wine country. And the unseasonably dry weather has yielded a harvest that is 40 per cent smaller than last year.

The weather has been throwing bees off across the country. Drought-like conditions in the east and southern Manitoba have meant earlier and smaller harvests, while the relentless rain through spring and early summer on the west coast have resulted in harvests that will likely be two weeks late.

It’s a wonky timetable with big impact. Bees are the “perfect pollinators,” says Eugene, who has been a master bee keeper for more than 30 years. They pollinate a wide range of flowering crops, from apples and avocados to cucumbers and blueberries. His bee hives, for example, are located at Rosewood Wines, where the insects can pollinate grapes as well as produce honey.

“Of course we’re concerned about the harvest because it helps pay the bills,” he says. “But we also love our bees and this is so much bigger than just honey.”

For now, though, all the Romans can do is adapt to the changing cycles of bees.

“Really, they’re not interested in you,” says William as he strides towards the hives to start his honey harvest. “They’re just protective of their honey.”

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