Terry Fehr knows all about the ‘buzz’ in Gladstone. While he now runs a downsized operation as a hobby, Fehr spent 23 years as a full-time beekeeper at his Gladstone-based Meadowlark Farms Ltd. Being a first-generation bee farmer, Fehr took interest in the industry about a quarter-century ago and has been happy with his decision ever since. “I was looking to get in to farming and (bee farming) was a way of getting into it,” Fehr explained. “I started small and got big very quickly. It happened to work out and it’s something I’ve enjoyed.” When Fehr’s operation was in full-swing he operated about 1,000 hives. Manitoba beekeepers produce an average of 160 to 170 lbs. of honey per hive annually with many producers getting higher yields than that. The number of bees per hive often vary, but industry stats point to hives typically having over 50,000 bees living in them. “Honey is one of the more volatile commodities, but it has been stable in recent years,” Fehr explained. In 2012, the Manitoba Beekeepers Association’s recommended honey house price per pound is $2.75. “In Manitoba there are relatively small buyers compared to producers. Manitoba is actually a major exporter of honey.” And while there is money in the honey, there’s also a ‘risk’ to the job. Fehr and his fellow beekeepers wear netted headgear and protective clothing but getting stung on the hand or through material is still a daily habit of the hobby. “It’s part of the job,” Fehr explained, comparing bee farming to other agricultural occupations. “Just like when you work with grain you get dusty and when you work with hogs you smell like pigs, when you work with bees you’re going to get stung. You do get used to it. “I’d actually prefer to be stung by a bee than a mosquito,” the beekeeper added with a chuckle. In a typical season for Fehr, the ‘main honey flow’ begins in late June or July. The harvest runs for as many as six weeks but can sometimes be as short as three weeks. In the fall the bees are medicated for disease - this can also occur in the spring months of April and May - and as the winter hits bees become dormant, slow down their movement and cluster to keep their temperature up. At current, Fehr’s bees are less active and are storing up sugar for the winter months.