Noel Shank puts his protective veil on. Looking like a strange creature from a science fiction film, he walks towards the enclosure where he keeps his bee hives, carefully disconnecting the electric fence before entering where his colonies are located.
A stream of white puffs from the end of the smoker in his hand, the fumes serving to keep the bees calm. He lifts up the lid of a hive to check how much honey his little friends have produced.
“It's a marvel,” Shank says.
The Hanmer resident has been in the beekeeping business for more than 20 years. He was bitten, one might say, by the beekeeping bug thanks to his brother, who was already keeping hives.
At nearly 70, Shank keeps busy taking care of a few million of his buzzing little friends.
“There's one word that says 'beekeeping', which says a lot.” Says Shank.
He puts at least 40 hours a week — and sometimes as many as 80 — into caring for the insects.
It was his brother that got him into the art of beekeeping, but Shank took it a step further than simply raising bees. He became a bee inspector for the Ministry of Agriculture. He also belongs to the Sudbury and District Beekeepers Association and the Ontario Beekeepers Association.
This experience, and the closeness that has developed between the man and his colonies, makes the threat of colony collapse disorder, the still-unresolved mystery of why North American bee populations are declining, all the more apparent.
Nature's happy pollinators, Shank knows that if we lose the bees, we will lose a whole lot more than honey.
“If we lose bees, we'll go hungry.”