No U.S Bees for Canada

     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 (this post was originally written in 2013 when the assessment was released).  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 majority of the Canadian population and beekeepers live 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.  I think it's important for us to decrease our dependence on imported bees.  Many of the major pests and diseases we are dealing with are imported and our reliance on imported early spring packages prevents us from developing a strong, local, survivor stock bee population.  As E. Punnett and M. Winston of Simon Fraser University suggested 30 years ago "a local bee production industry would not only be a new and lucrative source of income for local beekeepers, but may be essential to the survival of Canadian beekeeping." (A Comparison of Package and Nucleus Production from Honey Bee Colonies
     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 jurisdictions do not treat American foulbrood but have regulated mandatory eradication through the burning of the colony and hive.  The small hive beetle has been detected 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.  The small hive beetle arrived in Australia in 2002.  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 behavior and tendencies toward swarming have resulted in the creation of a more manageable bee.  Finally, all pests eventually develop resistance to pesticides.  The philosophy of agrichemical dependent farming (including beekeeping) only serves the profits of the agrichemical corporations.  In addition Australia has as stated the small hive beetle, the Braula fly and is geographically susceptible to the Tropilaelaps mite especially with the recent findings of Apis Cerana and Varroa mites.  Tropilaelaps mites have rapidly expanded their range over the last 50 years and are present throughout Asia, including nearby Indonesia and Papua New Guinea (roughly 3.75 km separates the two countries at Saibai Island).  The Tropilaelaps mite may be a greater future threat to us than any of the 4 stated threats posed by U.S. importation.  At present the mite range is limited by lack of brood in cold regions as their mouths can't penetrate the exoskeleton of adult bees they starve in 3 days outside of brood.  The concern as stated by the BBVA is increased year round brood presence due to global warming especially for us in the lower mainland.

     The dilemma is that my alternate solution of locally produced survivor stock is not a practical reality.  It will take substantial support and leadership from the government and bee industry to create a large scale bee breeding industry capable of supplying our needs and to date there is none.  Everyone appears content with our present reliance on southern hemisphere imports.  Meanwhile beekeepers are faced with the financial reality associated with importing bees from the southern hemisphere.  
     Maybe we should build a Bee Wall.



Post a Comment