Large animals are on display at Brome Fair every year, from cows to goats. Perhaps the most important domesticated animal is the smallest: the honey bee. These social marvels head out from their hives to fertilize plants, rubbing their legs on pollen that they bring to fertilize the next flower.

Bee colonies are under threat from pesticides but in this area cold is the problem, not poison. Dramatic changes in the weather, such as the cold snap we suffered in the spring, can kill bees.

“The cold weather in the spring was devastating to our beehives,” says Maude Tougas standing behind dozens of jars of her honey at the Saturday market in Knowlton. She and her husband, David Marchand-Duchesneau raise bees in Mansonville.

Almost a third of beehives in Quebec were lost last winter, according to the annual survey done by the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists. It may have been worse in southern Quebec.

“We are lucky, there is little or no pesticide use in Mansonville,” says Madame Tougas.

This summer they are rebuilding. They have at least 80 nursery hives on a large property in the middle of Knowlton. The idea is to create queens, essential to a productive beehive, and then expand them into producing hives. If bees are in danger, the beekeepers of Mansonville are doing their bit to rebuild the population.