There are about 400 beekeepers in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia as of early 2020. Half of them are registered with the Nova Scotia Beekeepers Association. Most of the 26,000 honey-producing hives in the province are owned and managed by commercial beekeepers, and some have up to 2,000 hives.
All bees are natural pollinators but only the domesticated bees introduced to North America by European settlers produce honey. There are hundreds of varieties of honey, each with distinct flavors based on the types of flowers pollinated by the bees. Honey is unique and carries the flower signature of the areas where honeybees forage.
Tim Purdy is a beekeeping expert in Nova Scotia. His services as well as his knowledge are in great demand. His company, Country Fields Beekeeping Supplies, recently moved into expanded quarters in Fall River.
Once he realized that his pollinators were more valuable than the blueberries they were pollinating, his business took off and hasn’t looked back in the past five years. Until now he operated his business from a three-bay garage at his home on the outskirts of Halifax, in Waverley.
This blog post is mainly about beekeeping and honeybees in Nova Scotia, but we include this 2:11-minute video by Agriculture Canada to honor the wild bees and show how important they are as pollinators on Prince Edward Island:
Tim Purdy is a big proponent of the belief that beekeeping is the future food security of the country. He encourages people to get involved in the industry. His own business expansion reflects the truth of that statement. He just opened a 100 x 50-foot two floor retail store and warehouse in Fall River. Take Exit 14 off Highway 118 to find him. He is far and away the largest supplier of hobbyist and commercial beekeeping supplies in Atlantic Canada.
His father was a small commercial blueberry farmer in Montrose, Colchester County. Back in 2010 he took over the field, but 5 years later the profitable business fell victim to plummeting blueberry prices. He’d been a hobby beekeeper but decided then to build an apiary to pollinate his own blueberry fields.
Around the same time, the Nova Scotia Agriculture College was offering courses and encouraging people to become beekeepers. There was a greater demand for pollination than there were bees in the province. And due to challenges like Varroa mite parasites and fluctuating temperatures, it seemed many honeybees were unlikely to survive without beekeepers.
More pollinators meant more bees being imported, and this raised the danger level of potentially bringing pests and diseases from outside the province into Nova Scotia. It didn’t make sense to Purdy to bring them in from elsewhere, so to support local beekeepers he purchased Country Fields Beekeeping Supplies and moved the business to Waverley to be closer to a high concentration of Nova Scotia beekeepers and blueberry growers.
The core of his business was in servicing commercial beekeepers with supplies and importing bees from the southern hemisphere for local pollination needs. Then it evolved due to those interested in beekeeping as a hobby, and beekeeping is now embraced by all ages. The business growth has been from selling live bees and equipment to customers who set up hives on their own property.
The new location at Falls River carries products sourced locally as well as from around the globe, including top brands of beekeeping supplies, and the unique “woodenwares” for hives that are made locally of Nova Scotia pine. He fills orders online and ships across Canada.
Education is also now a large part of his business. Classes are held on the upper floor of the new location for new and experienced apiarists. Training is conducted by an instructor with a Masters degree in Beekeeping. Courses will continue through May if there is a demand. Last year about 60 people from 12 to 70 years old took the courses.
So, if you happen to live in Nova Scotia or thereabouts and are interested in hobby beekeeping, you might want to wander out to Country Fields Beekeeping Supplies in Fall River one day. Honeybees will soon emerge from their winter retreat and start to forage in the fields. This is the perfect time to seek out the expertise of Tim Purdy to see if you might enjoy BEEcoming a beekeeper.