BY CHARLENE WIRTZ
There has been another new face around town this summer. Emily Pearsons, from Essex County in England, has been in Wadena this summer to learn about beekeeping. She has been working with Brendan Wirtz, who owns the local Mariposa Apiaries, for her work-study practicum as part of the Commercial Beekeeping Program offered through Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Vancouver, B.C. Pearsons first got into beekeeping when she saw an advertisement for a local beginner’s course on YouTube and decided to try it out. She enjoyed it so much that she bought her own hives last year, and then she saw another ad for the course in Vancouver. She was one of only nine accepted for the 2018 session and ﬂ ew from England to Vancouver to start in February. “It’s a lot of work but I love it, and I wouldn’t change it now,” said the self-confessed workaholic. The ﬁrst three months of the course were divided between theory in the morning and working in the ‘bee yard’ in the afternoon.
Her work term started in June and she has learned the business from the ground up. The rest of her classmates are spread around B.C. and Alberta, and Pearsons is the only one from this particular course to be working in Saskatchewan this summer. “Brendan came and gave a talk at the school and showed us some pictures. I couldn’t believe how ﬂ at it looked, and when I got here, I still couldn’t believe it.” It was Wirtz’s presentation to her class that inspired her to apply to work here, and she hasn’t regretted it. “I have learned what it takes to run a small bee operation – managing bees, swarm control, hive management, equipment and extracting.” Where the Honeybee Centre attached to the university is mostly line work with automation, Wirtz’s operation is hands on. “I got to see the new building going up – that was fun to see how that works, Essex is very crowded, so you don’t get to see barns going up – I built pallets and bee boxes and pulled frames by hand.” The frames hold the honeycomb and are removed from the bee boxes to go into the extractor. “It has been nice being able to share knowledge with someone eager to learn,” commented Wirtz. Wadena is a little different than what Pearsons is used to and said one of the biggest adjustments she had to make was to how quiet it is. “It took a few weeks to adjust but now I enjoy it.
I do sometimes miss the noise.” She also enjoyed some of the local activities, such as the parade at the Town & Country Fair, and a house concert earlier in the summer. “Mostly I have been enjoying the work. I plan to do beekeeping full-time when I ﬁnish this course, and I want to travel and work in other places to see the different styles of beekeeping. Eventually, I want to start a small operation like Brendan’s.” Among the places she wants to work are New Zealand and Slovenia. She returns this week to Vancouver to ﬁnish the course with more classwork, which will include advanced work in bee management and some more fun stuff like candle making, which she is looking forward to. The business aspect, she admits, has not been her favourite part, but all in all she believes she has found her calling. Although she has lost track of how many frames she has uncapped over the summer, which means to open up the honeycomb so the honey can come out, she counted 14 bee stings this season, for a lifetime total of 15. “Bees are gentler than people think,” she explained. “It takes a lot to get them to sting. I had to make one sting me last year, before I started the course, to see if I was allergic or not.” It was a course prerequisite to know, not for eligibility but to be prepared. After all, when working with bees it is impossible to avoid being stung, just like with working around horses, it is impossible to avoid getting your foot stepped on. Good luck Emily and have fun in your new career!