In a recently released report from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (Risk Assessment of Importation of U.S Honey Bees) they concluded that the risk was too great to remove the blockade on U.S honey bees. The initial blockade was implemented in 1987 in response to an outbreak in the U.S of the tracheal and varroa mites.
My personal viewpoint on the subject has evolved through the years. Initially I was totally against the ban on importation of U.S bees from a purely practical point of view. First, it made no sense to import bees from the southern hemisphere (Canadian Regulations on Importation of Honey Bees) thousands of miles away when bees were readily available closeby at a fraction of the cost and environmental impact. Present regulations allow Canadians to import packages of bees from New Zealand, Australia and Chile only and queens from New Zealand, Australia, Chile, California and Hawaii. Secondly, the blockade has not worked. 26 years after the ban on U.S bees, both the tracheal and varroa mites are alive and established in Canada. Strange as it may seem bee swarms do not go through the regulated border crossings when flying into Canada. The vast majority of the Canadian population and beekeepers live very close to the U.S/Canada border which is the longest unregulated border in the world.
My viewpoint now is very much in support of developing localized bee breeding. With the issues that bees face today I feel that localized environmental adaptation and the development of strong, survivor stock is essential for a long term healthy bee population. At present the beekeeping situation here in British Columbia is dependant on the annual importation of thousands of packages of bees primarily from New Zealand. That dependance has created a situation where there is very little available local bee breeding and no incentive to do so.
The reasons given for maintaining the ban on importation of U.S bee packages are the risks associated with the importation of Africanized honey bees, antibiotic-resistant American foulbrood, small hive beetle and amitraz resistant varroa mite.
I believe maintaining the ban on importation of American bees will only delay the arrival of these 4 stated health risks. Reasons that these risks may not be valid are most juridictions do not treat American foulbrood but have regulated mandatory eradication through the burning of the colony and hive. The small hive beetle is present in small populations in Canada but is considered more of a southern problem probably due to it's origination in the warmer climates of Africa. Similarly, the Africanized bees progress northward has been slowed by the colder winters of the north (Killer Bees). As the Africanized bee moves northward the genetic dilution of the much publicized aggressive behaviour and tendancies toward swarming may conclude in the creation of a more manageable, hygienic bee. Finally, all pests eventually develop resistance to pesticides. The philosophy of agrochemical dependant farming (including beekeeping) only serves the profits of the agrochemical corporations.
The dilemma is that my alternate solution of a localized, survivor stock is not a practical reality. It will take decades to create an infrastructure of local bee breeding sufficient to meet our demands. Commercial beekeepers are faced with the financial reality associated with the high costs of importing bees from the southern hemisphere (Eastern Protectionism and Local Commercial Beekeepers). Meanwhile Americans are studying the risks associated with importing bees from Australia (Apis Cerana in Australia).
As a backyard beekeeper not faced with the financial reality of high import costs that burden Canadian commercial beekeepers I have the luxury of not buying any imported bees. I will continue to support the development of a localized, survivor stock through local bee breeding.