36 John Gruszka – Independence From Packaged Honey Bees: the Case of Saskatchewan, Canada

Transcript

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John Gruszka served as the Provincial Apiculturalist in Saskatchewan, Canada between 1978 and 2011. As John mentions in the interview, Saskatchewan is one of the most productive honey producing places on the planet, but it suffers from quite an inhospitable winter (John says it’s the closest you get to ‘Siberia’ on the continent). In this episode, John describes how Saskatchewan beekeepers learned to become less dependent on imported package honey bees during the 1980’s. John has a biology degree from the University of Waterloo, and a Masters degree in Entomology (Apiculture major) from the University of Manitoba. He worked in Tanzania from 1971-1975, 3 years of which was on Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) sponsored beekeeping training, research and development. During his term as Provincial Apiculturalist, he served three terms as President of the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturalist (CAPA).

Listen in to hear about the history of pollinators in Northern Canada, wintering techniques, and how packages of bees have changed the beekeeping industry.

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“I will never forget Dr. Don Peer telling me, ‘I’m a 2 percenter. If I can improve by having 2% less winter losses, 2% more honey, 2% less aggression in my hives – whatever else you are selecting for – over five years I am 10% better’.” – John Gruszka


Four colonies pushed together and insulated
into a four-pack (Southern Alberta, photo: Lynae Ovinge)

Show Notes:

  • Why anybody would keep bees in such cold climates
  • How bees were kept alive during the harsh winters of the past
  • What makes Northern Canada so ideal for pollinators
  • When the trend changed from wintering bees to relying on packages for winter
  • The key innovations afforded by packages of bees
  • How different ways of wintering bees can provide different benefits
  • Where many wintering techniques come from
  • The history of the Carniolan bee in Saskatchewan

“Beekeepers need to recognize that when it comes to queen rearing, you can do this!“ – John Gruszka

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