CATCH THE BUZZ
US Bees To Canada? Sacre Bleu!!
By Alan Harman, Our Man In Toronto
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is under pressure from commercial beekeepers to allow them to bring in U.S. packages after they reported average losses of 50% of their hives.
The agency notified provincial chief veterinary officers that commercial beekeepers say they are unable to meet the demand of farmers and consumers/
The Vancouver Sun newspaper reports that in a widely-distributed letter, Dr. Francine Lord, the agency’s deputy chief veterinary officer, says her department is reviewing a 1987 decision to keep the border closed to packages but won’t make any changes until a full risk assessment is done.
The border was closed because of the Varroa mite, the fear of Africanized honey bee genetics being mixed into Canadian bee populations and to prevent the arrival of small hive beetle.
The agency did a risk assessment in 2003 and concluded it was still too dangerous to open the border even though Varroa was now firmly established. It did allow the importation of honey bee queens from Hawaii and California to help strengthen the genetics of Canada’s domestic bee population.
Lord now says it’s time to review whether the reasons for the ban are still valid.
But Canadian Honey Council chairman Gerry McKee tells the newspaper simply allowing Canadian beekeepers to bring in cheaper bees from the U.S. may not solve the long-term problem.
McKee says Canada has an emerging industry breeding and wintering hardy bees and many beekeepers have invested heavily in trying to find solutions to the annual winter losses.
“It seems to me now that questions are being raised that the decision won’t be based solely on the concerns of honey bee health,” he says. “Those who are looking at the bottom line generally aren’t looking far ahead. I’d like to hear from those who have made the investments for their future stocks and who are trying to find the desired genetics for overwintering capability.
“That’s forward investment. I would hate to see that diminished or threatened because others who don’t want to make those investments or who are unable to upgrade their beekeeping or management skills dominate the situation.”
New Bee Security Rules Protect Canada’s Bees.
The Canadian government releases a national biosecurity standard designed to protect bees from pests and disease.
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says the standard offers a consistent national approach to biosecurity and is applicable to bee operations of all types and sizes.
“Protecting bee health is important to safeguarding the bee industry and the Canadian agricultural industries that depend on it,” Ritz says. “The value of the honey and bee products industry is substantial, and many other valuable crops are reliant on pollination by bees.”
Canada has seen rapid growth in pollination-dependent crops such as fruits and vegetables. About C$2 billion in agricultural products rely on bees.
“Healthy bees contribute to a healthy economy,” Ritz says.
Canadian Honey Council Executive Director Rod Scarlett says the development of a national bee biosecurity standard is the culmination of a cooperative effort on behalf of the Canadian government, provincial governments and the industry.
“It represents an important step in the growing awareness and contribution of the apicultural sector to Canadian agriculture,” he says.
The standard was developed through a partnership with the honey bee, bumblebee and alfalfa leaf-cutting bee industries and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. It was developed in collaboration with producers, industry associations, academia, and provincial governments.
On bee health management:
* Exposure to pests is minimized by introducing bee stocks of known health status. Sources are documented to enable traceability.
* Factors are managed to reduce the bees’ susceptibility to pests. A response is implemented when threshold levels are reached.
* Direct and indirect contact with infected or infested bees is minimized.
* Pests and their signs are accurately diagnosed. Bee operations are monitored to assess the risk of pests.
* A standard response plan is in place to address treatment thresholds, options, and rotation plans, notification procedures, record keeping, and follow‑up actions.
* An elevated response plan is in place, and the conditions under which it will be implemented are understood.
For operations management:
* Only recommended production inputs are utilized and are obtained from known and reliable sources.
* The degradation and contamination of production inputs is prevented by safe and secure storage and disposal.
* Bee equipment is obtained from known and reliable sources. Used equipment is accompanied by proper permits, if required, and is cleaned and disinfected or treated upon arrival as needed.
* Bee equipment is regularly inspected and, when necessary, action is taken to minimize negative impacts to bee health.
* Precautions are taken to minimize the spread of pests through human contact with bees and equipment.
* Facilities are constructed to allow for ease in cleaning, are bee-tight if needed, and are consistent with government standards if applicable. The facilities have appropriate lighting and climate control for safe storage of bees and production inputs, and enable monitoring and pest management.
* A sanitation and maintenance program is implemented for all premises, buildings, vehicles, and other equipment.
* An integrated management program for weeds and nuisance pests is implemented.
* All those working in a beekeeping operation or utilizing bees are trained and regularly updated on biosecurity risks and protocols.
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