The yard beside the Dugas family home is buzzing with activity.
Amanda and Lonnie Dugas, and their kids Gregory, 17, and Sarah, 14, have around half a dozen beehives on their Brentwood, N.S., property.
Amanda Dugas, a Mi’kmaw student support worker at a local high school, never saw herself becoming a beekeeper. When an opportunity came up for her to take a summer course in beekeeping along with her daughter a few years ago, they went for it. Soon, the whole family was donning their bee suits to care for hives.
“It just kind of got us through the pandemic as a family. It gave us something to do because we couldn’t go anywhere,” Amanda Dugas said.
In the fall, they sell honey from their apiary, but in the summer, Gregory and Sarah spend their extra time making house calls to safely remove bee nests from people’s homes.
Most of them are wild bumble bees which they relocate to farms that want the insects.
Amanda Dugas says some people still see bees as pests, and even try to exterminate the bees themselves with pesticides.
But she says awareness around the importance of bees to the ecosystem has caused the demand for their rescue services to increase each year.
“People are willing to pay a couple of teenagers to come into their house and safely, humanely remove bees from their home and know that these bees are going somewhere to be taken care of,” she said.
According to data from the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists, the largest-ever number of bees survived the 2020-21 winter in Nova Scotia since such reporting began in 2007.
That success is due in part to the fact that importing bees is banned in Nova Scotia, according to Tyler Hobbs, president of the Nova Scotia Beekeepers’ Association.
“We really have to rely on each other right here in the province. If a disaster strikes in the winter, we need each other. We’re each other’s answer to get out of it,” Hobbs said.
“So that really makes Nova Scotia quite unique when it comes to beekeeping and really kind of focuses us where we put our efforts and our money and our time to make sure that our populations are stable.”
He says over the last few years, appreciation for bees has grown “leaps and bounds.”
“People used to see a bee and kill it. Now people offer it water or some honey to see if it will spruce up and fly away again,” he said.
The Dugas kids said they understand that some people are afraid of bees. Sarah herself was “terrified” when she first started interacting with their hives. But after a couple years with them, both said their favourite thing about bees is how gentle they are.
They’ve even taught their friends about bees.
A couple of them are terrified, but I’ve had a couple of friends out beekeeping with me and they’ve said that it’s quite an enjoyable experience and they really enjoy how gentle the bees can be,” Gregory said.
Ultimately, Gregory wants people to know that bees don’t pose any real danger.
“It’s good to have them on your property — better pollination for your flowers and your trees that are in your yard. And they don’t bug you unless you bug them.”