Happy home found for 5,000 Brilliant bees

July 25, 2019 by Jas Baweja

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Staff were buzzing with energy early July when they walked in to work to find bunches of bees gathered on the grounds at Brilliant Dam, a power generation facility owned by Columbia Power Corporation and Columbia Basin Trust, and operated by FortisBC. 

While the bees were minding their own business, they did present a serious safety concern to the staff, some of whom had allergies. Bees generally stick to their hives but when the colony gets too big for the location they have no choice but to move around; so, this meant there had to be a large hive somewhere. 

“Safety and the environment are our top two priorities, everyday,” said Matthew Storvold, operations supervisor for FortisBC. “Funny enough, I’m also a third-generation beekeeper so this was about to be an exceptionally fun week on the job.”

Storvold and his team set to work to locate the hive and found it in a crevice on the walls right outside the dam, thirty feet above the ground and around twelve feet deep. 

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A honey bee colony was making honey inside a crevice outside Brilliant Dam.

Redefining the term “sting operation”

Storvold was able to cross-pollinate his hobby into work when he volunteered to remove and relocate the bees in a sustainable manner. 

“Building a bee vacuum is tricky,” said Storvold. “The pressure has to be right so you don’t hurt them. I attached the vacuum to a box and also put in a screen so they would stay in the box instead of being sucked into the vacuum.” 

Storvold and Kurtis Byres, FortisBC generation project lead, rented a lift to access the beehive and safely extracted around 5,000 bees, along with the honeycombs!

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Storvold and his team in full bee safety gear, accessing the hive.

Honey, I’m home!

Storvold brought the box of bees to his own home and introduced them to the 30,000 he already had. 

“I did it slowly since these bees need to understand that there’s a new Queen and they have to get used to new pheromones,” explained Storvold. “5,000 bees is a lot to integrate and if I did it all at once they would have attacked the existing bees knowing it’s not their hive.” 

It took a few days but the new bees are now happy and even making honey. 

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The bees will now make new honeycombs as part of their new colony.

Going above and BEEyond for safety

We’re committed to protecting the natural habitat within our operations and this is a great example of FortisBC staff going the extra mile for the environment. It would have been easier to simply remove the bees entirely, but recognizing the importance of bees and other wildlife Storvold and his team put in extra steps (and certainly extra time) to safely relocate the bees to a new colony where they continue to prosper. Storvold and his team will be back at it in a few months to collect the Queen as she was too far in to the crevice to extract safely at this time.

The bees must have appreciated the extra care and attention too – Storvold and Byres never got stung.