Heat kills millions of bees at local honey business

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SAN DIEGO -- The owner of a North County honey production company says the recent heat spell has been bad for business.

David Winter, who owns Chapparal Honey in Valley Center, says the hot weather has cost him hundreds of hives -- roughly 150 million bees.

"It's the first time we've had temperatures over 115 in San Diego County and so we weren't prepared for it," Winter said.

"It was a significant loss," Winter said. "200 to 300 [hives] we lost. There are roughly 30,000 to 50,000 bees in a hive."

It's a roughly $40,000 hit to his business, which already struggles from the drought.

"Our normal rainfall is 15 inches and we had six inches this year," Winter said. "Year before we had 22 inches. There's less rain, there's less flowers; less flowers, less honey."

For that reason, Winter hasn't produced a drop of honey this year.

"We didn't make any on this side in San Diego County," Winter said. "In San Diego County very few beekeepers have made any honey."

So instead, these bees are changing roles from production to pollination.

"Honeybees, we can keep them in a box and move them at night from one field to another," Winter said.

And to help them get the work done, they're even being fed.

"We give them a gallon of syrup and a couple of pounds of protein," Winter said.

The extra boost helps them survive the hot summer so they'll be ready to work come winter.

"That's just to keep them healthy until January when we move them up to central California," Winter said.

The extra nutrition is usually something that is done two months out of the year, but this year, Winter said the bees are fed an extra four months.

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