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Beekeeping hobby is abuzz in New Brunswick amid the pandemic

A New Brunswick man has become quite the busy bee selling beekeeping equipment amid the pandemic, which may result in a positive spinoff for farmers in the province.

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When Matt Casey of Steeves Mountain, N.B., decided to launch a beekeeping supply business in the middle of a pandemic, he said, “people thought I was crazy.”

But it turns to be a pretty sweet idea. Casey said there has been a buzz around beekeeping since the start of the pandemic and the hobby has been growing in popularity over the last year

“There is a lot of people from all different walks of life wanting to get into beekeeping. I don’t know if it was the lockdown and people just more in tune with nature but it definitely has increased,” said Casey.

He said he started selling beekeeping supplies online and shipping them from his home but he ran out of room, and on Wednesday he opened a retail store in Sussex, NBee Gold Beekeeping Supplies, to accommodate the newcomers to the hobby.

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“We have a lot of fields around our house and we decided last year during the pandemic that we were going to grab some bees so we could have some honey and to help the pollinators in the province,” said Janica McLaughlin of Sussex, who started up the hobby with her husband.

According to the New Brunswick Beekeepers Association, there are not enough hives in the province to satisfy the needs in the agricultural sector, which is why the province relies heavily on importing honey bees from other provinces to pollinate some crops.

The association’s secretary and treasurer, Brian Pond, said the group is now trying to recruit more local beekeepers to take up the trade. The goal is to recruit 5,000 more commercial beekeepers in the province by 2024.

“Beekeeping is not for the faint of heart — it actually is work. You don’t just get the bees and put them out there and that is the end of the story,” said Pond.

Pond said beekeeping takes patience and dedication and it can take several years to grow large enough to become a commercial operation, which requires at least 50 hives.

COVID-19 may be creating a real buzz around the hobby, but it is also creating some challenges, said Casey. He said he is having a hard time accessing beekeeping protective clothing, most of which is made in India, now experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases.

But he said business is still booming and some new hobbyists are already considering expanding into the commercial market.

Pond said he just hopes they will stick to it even after the pandemic is over.

“You don’t want people getting into beekeeping and then two years later you’ve got a whole lot of beekeeping equipment on sale.”

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