Hivelights – August 2020

The pollinating donkey!

It’s been a great growing summer in southern Alberta and the bees are loving it! We’ve never had so many pollinator options in our fields at Chinook Honey – alfalfa, red clover, sweet clover and sainfoin – it’s a smorgasbord of nectar.
And we even caught donkey Matt Dillon pollinating canola! But wait – who’s in the wrong place? If you guessed the canola you’d be right. This is a large patch of volunteer canola and a common sight in farmyards and pastures everywhere that canola is grown. Canola seed is small and can blow a few miles from its original field.
Canola plays a large role in our world of beekeeping but we and some others have a love-hate relationship with this popular Alberta crop. The following summary explains many of the Pros and Cons.




  • Canola provides abundant nectar & high protein pollen for bees.
  • It’s dominance creates a mono-culture which reduces variety of nectar & pollen and thus overall honey bee nutrition.
  • Canola pollination provides a large income for many beekeepers.
  • Dependence on a single income stream can be hazardous if politics or other causes close out a large market. 
  • Canola has been genetically modified for higher yields, disease resistance and is a reliable, hardy crop.
  • GM canola is resistant to the herbicide ‘Round-Up’ so all of the extensive volunteer patches are very hard to eradicate.
  • GM canola and honey from it are banned from countries such as the EU. Also the presence and potential of canola seed drifting makes it very difficult for a farm to achieve organic status. (GM organisms cannot be present)
  • Canola often requires the application of pesticides which, if improperly applied, are fatal to beneficial insects such as honeybees.
  • Canola honey crystallizes quicker than most other nectar sources and must be extracted very quickly.
  • There is anecdotal evidence that honey bees with a heavy diet of canola nectar and pollen develop aggressive behavior.

In the meantime, although Matt Dillon doesn’t find canola plants very tasty, he sure appreciates them as a natural belly scratcher!  


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Chinook Honey Company & Chinook Arch Meadery

Box 12, Site 14, RR1, Okotoks, AB T1S 1A1
Phone: (403) 995-0830 | Fax: (403) 995-0829

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