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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Agriculture and Forestry

Issue 17 - Evidence - Meeting of October 7, 2014

OTTAWA, Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry met this day at 5:04 p.m. to study the importance of bees and bee health in the production of honey, food and seed in Canada.

Senator Percy Mockler (Chair) in the chair.


The Chair: Honourable senators and witnesses, thank you to the witnesses for accepting our invitation. I will introduce you officially in the next few minutes.

I welcome you to this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. My name is Percy Mockler, senator for New Brunswick and chair of the committee. At this time, I would like to ask all senators to introduce themselves.


Senator Robichaud: Fernand Robichaud from Saint-Louis-de-Kent, New Brunswick. Good evening.

Senator Maltais: Ghislain Maltais from Quebec. Welcome.


Senator Beyak: Senator Lynn Beyak, Ontario.

Senator Oh: Senator Oh, Ontario.


Senator Dagenais: Jean-Guy Dagenais from Quebec.


Senator Unger: Betty Unger, Alberta.

Senator Ogilvie: Kelvin Ogilvie, Nova Scotia.


The Chair: The committee is continuing its study on the importance of bees and bee health in the production of honey, food and seed in Canada.


The Senate of Canada has given an order of reference to the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry to authorize it to examine and report on the importance of bees and bee health in the production of honey, food and seed in Canada.


According to the Canadian Honey Council, the value of honey bees to the pollination of crops is estimated at over $2 billion annually.


As a reference, bees are crucial for the pollination of commercial plant, fruit and vegetable crops.

Honourable senators, I am pleased to officially introduce our witnesses. For the Government of New Brunswick, we have Kevin McCully, Director, Sector Specialist Services, Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries, by video conference. Mr. McCully, are you in Fredericton?

Kevin McCully, Director, Sector Specialist Services, Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries, Government of New Brunswick: Yes, that's correct.

The Chair: We have here at the table the following witnesses: from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, Keith Deering, Assistant Deputy Minister of Agrifoods Development; and Dave Jennings, Director, Product and Market Development.

I will be asking Mr. Deering to make the first presentation, to be followed by Mr. McCully from Fredericton. After you make your presentations, senators will ask questions in reference to the order that we received from the Senate of Canada.

That said, I will ask Mr. Deering to make the first presentation.

Keith Deering, Assistant Deputy Minister of Agrifoods Development, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and good evening, honourable senators. We are very happy to have been given this opportunity to address you this evening on a matter that is very important to the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and certainly for Canada as a whole.

Newfoundland and Labrador has a relatively small but growing agricultural sector that is diversifying in an attempt to improve the food security situation of our province. In fact, the mandate of the branch I am responsible for is to do just that: increase food production so that we are not as dependent on imported agricultural products as we have been since our province became a part of Canada in 1949.

As an island in the North Atlantic, with even short interruptions in transportation networks, we sometimes find ourselves in very vulnerable situations with regard to food security. We also find that these situations are becoming more and more frequent.

The subject of honeybee health and pollination is important to us for several reasons. First, as part of our diversification and growth strategy, increasing the value of fruit and vegetable production is of great importance. The role of healthy pollinators is clearly understood, particularly in improving yields in a variety of fruit crops. Second, we are seeing significant interest in an ever-increasing number of beekeepers for growing the apiculture industry to provide honey and other bee products, as well as pollination services. Third, and of greatest significance, is the unique situation our province finds itself in with regard to honeybee health. This fact will be the main focus of our presentation to you this evening.

In the past decade, several studies have shown that the Island of Newfoundland is one of the very few places left in the world that honeybees are free from all the major bee pests. This fact was recognized in a recent scientific paper published by several experts, including Dr. Geoffrey Williams, who presented to this committee on September 18, as I understand it.

Most significant of these pests is the varroa mite, a pest that has led to the loss of many bee colonies and has resulted in significant challenges for beekeepers throughout the world. The island is also free from the honeybee tracheal mite, the small hive beetle and the greater wax moth. As a result, our province has not seen the colony loss that has been experienced in other jurisdictions.

While the absence of these pests was probably accidental in the past, as a province we have taken steps to protect their status. Under our Animal Health and Protection Act we have created a regulation that prohibits the importation of honeybees from other provinces or countries without strict veterinary certification.

While we can enforce these rules within the province, we have no authority to put preventative measures outside of our jurisdiction. So we are asking the federal government, through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, to put measures in place to protect our province from the importation of diseased bees. This measure could mirror the quarantine in place at our ferry terminals that prevents the movement of the potato wart and golden nematode from Newfoundland to other provinces.

We are attempting to protect and enhance our honeybee sector in other ways. The concern expressed about the impact of widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides on honeybee health has not been lost on us. We are in a unique position to monitor this situation closely. Our agricultural sector does not produce a lot of crops that are treated with these insecticides. While the science on the impact of these chemicals on bee health is not totally conclusive, we are encouraging our farmers to look for alternatives to this class of insecticides.

We just concluded a three-year federal-provincial cost-shared agricultural research initiative worth $7.5 million. This program enabled us to undertake 69 research projects that resulted in significant innovations to our agri-foods sector. Included in these projects were several that explored bee health and pollination in our fruit industry. This program ended on March 31, 2014, and we were unable to convince the federal government to renew it. But we feel that now is not the time to end important research on honeybees, pollination and all other aspects of our industry.

The uniqueness of our honeybee disease-free status has created a lot of interest from bee researchers. We are attempting, through our own research program, to work with some of these people to better take advantage of our situation. Dr. Williams, who addressed this committee on September 18, is encouraging us to focus on developing an export business for disease-free bees. Federal support for research in Newfoundland would certainly assist this effort greatly. We want the federal government to recognize that we have something special in Newfoundland that could benefit the entire Canadian bee industry.

Our agricultural industry is different in other ways from much of the rest of Canada. Our industry is relatively young and our arable land base is very fractured, so we do not have vast expanses of farmland that is common in other jurisdictions in Canada. Honeybees and natural pollinators have diversified food sources that are largely uninterrupted by monoculture.

The obvious impacts of climate change have created both challenges and opportunities for us. While our average growing-degree days and frost-free periods are increasing, we seem to be experiencing more extreme weather events. This too impacts bee health.

The winter of 2013-14 was an extremely cold one, resulting in more bee losses than we have seen in recent years. All of these factors create very interesting research opportunities. Knowledge gained in Newfoundland could be transferred to help in the development of integrated pest management programs and bee management strategies.

Honourable senators, in conclusion, we feel that there is a very important role for the federal government in creating an opportunity to, first, protect the current disease-free status that we enjoy in our province and, second, put resources in place to research the factors associated with our unique situation. Better understanding of the relationships between bee diseases, environmental health, pesticides, and honeybee vigour need to be completely explored. Newfoundland and Labrador presents a perfect laboratory for much of this research.

As well, the development of a national agricultural research strategy should be a major priority for all of us. It has been well documented that countries that put more emphasis on research and development do much better at increasing their agricultural GDP. A recent USDA study demonstrated that with 1 per cent per year increases in R&D funding, U.S. agricultural output would be 83 per cent higher in 2050 than at 2008 levels. The same study showed that every dollar spent on wheat research generates $20 in returns. By comparison, Australia outspends Canada $80 million to $25 million per year on wheat research.

We are holding our second Biennial Agricultural Research Symposium in Newfoundland in November. We are attracting researchers from other provinces as well as our own. This symposium provides a great opportunity for us to share our work with others and to discuss research topics that might create opportunities for us all.

At this year's event will we be hearing a presentation from Mr. Daniel Borges, a student of Dr. Ernesto Guzman of Guelph University, regarding honeybee research. We will have a thorough discussion of bee research opportunities at this meeting. There will also be presentations on many other fields of agricultural research, and you can see details on our symposium website at

We feel that we are at a turning point for the agricultural sector in Newfoundland and Labrador. Opportunities to greatly increase the size and diversity of our industry are right in front of us. We are finding, however, that our geography and climate require that we often have to do things differently than most other jurisdictions. For this reason, research based on our conditions must be undertaken.

Thank you for giving us your attention this evening and we really appreciate the opportunity to speak with you.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

I would ask Mr. McCully, from New Brunswick, to make his presentation, please.

Mr. McCully: First, I'd like to thank the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry for this opportunity to provide a New Brunswick perspective on the questions that you've raised as related to bees and bee health, and the production of honey, food and seed in Canada or, in this case, New Brunswick. I put together a slide deck, which I believe you have in front of you. There are too many slides to go through in detail, but I would invite you to go back through them at your own leisure to look at some of the details I won't have time to go through.

The second slide talks about our industry in New Brunswick. New Brunswick has a relatively small beekeeping industry, with approximately 9,000 hives being managed. Our main use of honeybees in New Brunswick is for pollination purposes, with most of them being used to pollinate our wild blueberries. We also have some honey production — relatively minor, however — and basically no significant seed production associated with pollination.

The next slide continues on the importance of bees for pollination in New Brunswick. Whenever you take a look at the importance of pollination, you have to come back to farm cash receipts. You can see from this slide that again blueberries is by far our main crop requiring pollination and contributes $36 million in farm cash receipts to the economy in New Brunswick. The total value of the main crops which get pollinated by bees totals a little over $44 million.

The next slide looks more specifically at wild blueberries and the importance of pollination. We currently require approximately 51,000 pollination units. We currently use a combination of honeybees. We use bumblebees and alfalfa leafcutter bees, and that totals an equivalent of 12,000 pollination units. In order to come close to meeting our demand, we have to import approximately 20,000 hives, mostly from Ontario but some from Quebec, just to meet some of our pollination requirements. Even with that, we still have a shortfall of 19,000 pollination units.

The next slide: One year ago, New Brunswick released a Wild Blueberry Sector Strategy, which we estimate will likely result in an additional 30,000 acres of wild blueberry production. This will pretty much double our current production. As a result of that expansion, we anticipate having a shortfall, if we do nothing, of approximately 64,000 pollination units. So without the associated pollinators, new and existing acres will never reach their full potential and investments in land development can never be justified. This will be a huge challenge for us in New Brunswick to identify these additional pollinator units.

Slide 6: In order for New Brunswick to meet its future pollination requirements, cross-border movement of honeybee colonies will be required. We will have to balance our bee health concerns and of course the risks, along with looking at the requirements for pollination.

Our New Brunswick beekeepers and blueberry growers have somewhat differing viewpoints on how we should do it. Blueberry producers require pollination and need access to hives to reach their full potential, and they are not as concerned where these hives come from. For example, if they could get them from other provinces, that's fine from their standpoint. They would be perfectly happy to even see the U.S. border opened up to bring hives in because they need those hives to reach their full potential, and current demand is not being met.

New Brunswick beekeepers, on the other hand, although being very small, cannot come anywhere near meeting the current demand. But from their perspective, that's not important. Their perspective is they want to maintain the current health of their bee colonies in New Brunswick and do not want to take any chances of having new bee pest diseases introduced into the province.

Moving to slide 7, to address your question on the current state of pollinators in New Brunswick, I'll start with honeybees. Out of approximately 9,000 hives that are overwintered, we generally end up with an average of between 5,000 hives to 6,000 hives that actually survive and are strong enough to go to pollination each and every spring.

Since 2000, winter losses have averaged approximately 30 per cent. Prior to 2000, our normal overwintering losses wouldn't be any more than 10 per cent to 15 per cent, so there certainly has been a change in overwintering status in our province.

The next two slides are graphs and charts explaining the same thing, where we have been struggling with survival of our hives through the winter months.

On slide 10 we continue talking about the other pollinators. We talked about honeybees and now we'll talk about bumblebees. We rely on bumblebees as well for pollination in our province. We purchase approximately 3,000 quads, which is basically a box with bumblebees in it. They are available if pre-ordered but they are expensive. They do not survive our winters and we feel we need more work done on local bumblebee species that could be reared and actually survive our winters so we can build up our populations. Currently we rely on these box bumblebees that rely on a southern species of bumblebees.

Alfalfa leafcutter bees are also used but they are expensive, yields are marginal and they are much more difficult to manage. Also, they have been on a decline in our province.

We rely significantly on native bees as well for pollination in New Brunswick. We've identified over 69 different species and the degree of pollination they can provide depends on the type of winter and summer we have had. We find tremendous variability from year to year in the degree of pollination available from our native pollinators. Our growers are certainly aware of their importance and are certainly looking at ways to encourage these native pollinators to survive.

Slide 11 discusses factors affecting honeybee health in New Brunswick. There doesn't appear to be any one particular factor contributing to poor health and overwintering losses. There tends to be a complex of disease and pest issues which together cause bee health issues. Our growers tend to treat each pest individually. It is likely more important for research to be done on a holistic approach. You're not just treating one thing, but you're trying to treat a number of different complexes.

Our number one pest would be varroa mite and it's a constant challenge for our beekeepers in the province. We're also seeing more Nosema and other common pests or diseases in the province. Our overwintering losses remain a concern, as previous slides have shown, and also we identified that if our bees do not have good foraging sites, with lots of flowering plants through the summer, and if bad weather occurs and they can't get all the pollen they require, hive strength certainly suffers.

The other thing we find is that beekeepers' management skills and knowledge varies significantly. We definitely need more training of our beekeepers to teach them how to manage their hives properly from a health standpoint. The impact of neonicotinoids and other pesticides on bee health in New Brunswick isn't fully known. We're certainly aware of the concerns. For the most part we're fortunate that the majority of our beehives aren't located in the areas where this family of pesticides is being used.

The next slide, number 12, looks at strategies to support bee health. Our main strategy in New Brunswick for supporting bee health is really our legislation. We have a fairly strong Apiary Inspection Act, which allows us to appoint inspectors to monitor for bee diseases and pests in our province. They have enforcement capability that can even require the destroying of hives. Without a strong inspection program, bee health will be compromised.

We also work with neighbouring provinces to have harmonized requirements for importing bees from other jurisdictions. An example would be the small hive beetle. As part of our wild blueberry strategy, we're working on a pollination strategy because it is so important for our wild blueberry sector. We're also forming an Atlantic committee to look at cooperative ways to improve bee health and pollination availability in our region.

New Brunswick also monitors regions considered a higher risk for the introduction of new pests, so particularly along the U.S. borders and provincial borders, we'll be checking a little more frequently for pests.

Slide 13: We also financially provide assistance to our beekeeper association to help with their educational activities because education is so important. We provide funding for new entrants through a mentoring program so they can learn how to properly manage beehives.

Since 2000, we've also invested money in the beekeeping industry to help maintain hive numbers because, as you may notice, our overwintering numbers frequently decline and our numbers have been going down. This is to help encourage our hive numbers to at least maintain where they currently stand.

We also support native bee research projects, as well as other bee projects that come along. Certainly we would acknowledge that there needs to be a lot more research done on bees.

In closing, I would like to summarize to say how important bees are for crop pollination in New Brunswick and how it will become even more important as we double our blueberry acreage. To find thousands of new colonies for pollination will be challenging and we will have to rely on outside sources to meet our demands. Balancing the demand for additional colonies required from outside our region and concerns for bee health will be a challenge.

Some presenters to your committee may want to close provincial borders, but from a New Brunswick perspective, we require many more pollinators and we would need to rely on outside pollinators to meet our needs. Likely a cookie-cutter approach solution for all provinces will not be possible and I expect we will have to rely on lot of individual provinces to develop plans that will be most appropriate for themselves.

Thank you for listening and I would be happy to try to answer any questions you may have.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Senator Tardif: Thank you for a very interesting and informative presentation.

Mr. Deering, I was surprised when you indicated — and perhaps I did not hear correctly — that there is an increased number of beekeepers in your province. Is that so? We've heard on numerous occasions that in many provinces of Canada the actual number of beekeepers is going down. In fact, in the U.S. we heard just this week that the beekeeping industry is in crisis and beekeepers can't afford to keep up the activities that are needed. They're suffering too much in the way of colony loss. I was surprised by that comment and I invite you to expand on it.

Mr. Deering: To put it in perspective, Senator Tardif, apiculture is fairly new to Newfoundland. The total number of beekeepers in our province is about 35, so for us that represents an increase. We haven't been doing this for a long time and we are still at very small numbers.

Senator Tardif: How is it in the province of New Brunswick?

Mr. McCully: Out of the 200 beekeepers, I would estimate we have 25 commercial beekeepers, which I would define as is keeping over 50 hives. Our commercial beekeeper numbers are declining, mostly as a result of age. A lot of our beekeepers are part-time producers or have retired from a full-time job and it's more of a hobby. We are challenged as well in finding new beekeepers.

Senator Tardif: You mentioned it in your presentation, but what kind of services does your government offer to beekeepers?

Dave Jennings, Director, Product and Market Development, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador: As Mr. Deering stated, it's a new and growing industry. I can tell you that my office is inundated almost on a weekly basis with people expressing interest in getting into the business in our province. It's hard to explain, but it's from a perspective that we know there is something special here and people are taking advantage of that and looking at it as an opportunity. A lot of mixed farmers who have a vegetable and fruit operation are also looking at bees as part of their operation, so we're seeing growth in that area.

We offer a suite of funding programs they were eligible for and we also have extension services to provide advice. A beekeeper association was recently formed and we're working with them to try to organize their group. We're really involved in the industry.

Senator Tardif: Mr. McCully?

Mr. McCully: In New Brunswick we do have an apiary specialist who helps the beekeepers. We have our legislation that requires us to have a chief apiary inspector. We also have other extension people that help with the beekeepers. We'll provide some educational activities and provide funding for educational activities. Really, the legislation is our key component in how we help them by going and inspecting hives and advising them on the health status of them.

Senator Tardif: Do you share any of this information with farmers in the region? What is the communication link between the farmers, the people working in other agricultural crops, and the beekeepers?

Mr. Jennings: We're looking at it as a new opportunity, I guess, so we are encouraging people to look at this as an industry.

One of the challenges that we have is creating new hives. We have to multiply from our own stock because we will not permit people to bring bees in from other jurisdictions because we can't take a risk with infested bees. We have a unique situation in that regard.

Mr. McCully is talking about importing bees from other jurisdictions for pollination. We wouldn't allow that. We would require strict certification of disease-free bees. There's a real education piece we're doing in our province right now.

Senator Tardif: Your situation is certainly different from the other provinces that we've heard.

Mr. Jennings: Certainly.

Senator Tardif: That's great that you're not dealing with some of the varroa mite problems that other provinces are dealing with.

I'm interested because we've heard a lot about the need for better communication between the growers and the farms, for example, in Western Canada where I'm from, the beekeepers and good management practices, best management practices.

Mr. McCully, what is being done in New Brunswick?

Mr. McCully: Our main user would be the blueberry industry, and they do have a pretty good working relationship. Our blueberry industry can use every single hive that our beekeepers can produce, so they're in constant communication with them, hoping that they can secure their hives for pollination. Communication between those two groups is very strong.

Senator Robichaud: Does Newfoundland import queen bees in packages?

Mr. Jennings: No.

Senator Robichaud: No? I thought Mr. Deering said that you did.

Mr. Jennings: What we've done now, we've had imports this year of things like bee eggs and bee semen from Canadian jurisdictions that are certified free from disease. Any beekeeper who is interested in importing hives or package bees into our province has to access them from a disease-free area. Our provincial legislation requires that. That's becoming more of a challenge every day. Tasmania is one. I think there are a few other places in the world that you can do that. It's really hard to get strong assurance, certainly from most jurisdictions, that you're free from disease with live package honeybees. It's a challenge.

Senator Ogilvie: Thank you, gentlemen.

Mr. Deering, I'd like to get some numbers on some of the things you said to us. Of the roughly 35 beekeepers that you have, what would be your total permanent number of colonies in Newfoundland?

Mr. Deering: Approximately 500.

Senator Ogilvie: Except for 2013, what has been the average or the percentage range of hives lost over the winter?

Mr. Jennings: I'm more familiar with that, senator. I would think that in an average year we would rarely see losses of 20 per cent in a normal year.

Senator Ogilvie: So less than 20 per cent?

Mr. Jennings: Yes. This past year has been really extraordinary. We probably lost 30 or 40 per cent.

Senator Ogilvie: Of these roughly 500 colonies, how many would be outside of a neonicotinoid-sprayed or neonicotinoid-seeded farm in terms of their foraging area?

Mr. Jennings: When we look at the neonicotinoid pesticide itself, it is low. We don't grow soybeans, for instance. There are a lot of crops they would be used on that we just don't grow.

Senator Ogilvie: Right, I understand that.

Mr. Jennings: We grow a couple thousand acres of corn, for instance, but most of the crops we grow don't use those pesticides; so we're in a unique situation from that perspective. I would say the vast majority of those hives don't get subjected to that, and it's probably really easy to assure that.

Senator Ogilvie: I expected this, and that's why I'm asking the question because this is really important information.

You have about 2,000 acres of corn. Is that corn planted with neonicotinoid-coated seeds?

Mr. Jennings: Some it is, certainly.

Senator Ogilvie: Are there any hives in the vicinity of those cornfields for which you would have any numbers on overwintering loss and, if so, are they different from the average for Newfoundland?

Mr. Jennings: We certainly, sir, don't have numbers. We haven't gotten down that deep into it. It's a research question that's interesting that we should be looking at. There's a real opportunity.

Senator Ogilvie: Thank you.

I want to go to the same line of questioning to Mr. McCully, if I could. I'm going to come back to the same question with you because you've got quite a number of colonies, by fall roughly 9,000 you indicated and an average of approximately 20 to 30 per cent losses over winter.

Of the permanent New Brunswick hives, that is those in that number that I've just used, how many of them would be outside of the normal range of the bees coming into contact with neonicotinoid-sprayed or neonicotinoid-seeded plants?

Mr. McCully: I would estimate that 75 per cent of our hives would be outside of the zone where a significant amount of neonicotinoid pesticides would be used.

Senator Ogilvie: That leads me to the next obvious question. Have you noticed since you've got a high enough number of hives to actually have the figures be meaningful what difference you see in overwintering losses of the hives within foraging distance of neonicotinoids as opposed to those outside foraging distance?

Mr. McCully: We have never broken down our results from that perspective, but just knowing some of the beekeepers and the losses they've had, I would say we're still in that same range of loss of around 30 per cent per year. There's certainly no obvious trend that there are higher losses in that area.

Senator Ogilvie: So this hasn't been an issue that the beekeepers near those planted crops have brought to you saying, ''We're seeing terrible losses whereas our neighbours aren't''?

Mr. McCully: We've have beekeepers expressing their concern more out of fear that it could be a problem for them.

Senator Ogilvie: As opposed to experience.

Mr. McCully: At this point, it hasn't been a significant problem. We have some beekeepers that may claim that's what it's from, but there's no documented proof of it either. Just them being aware that that is an issue somewhere, they feel some of their wintering losses could be attributed to that, but there's no proof whatsoever to back that up.

Senator Ogilvie: Understood. Thank you very much.

Senator Robichaud: You say that all bees that come into Newfoundland have to be inspected. What do you do with bees, just out of curiosity, that would come from Quebec to Labrador to Newfoundland, down to the island, the Rock? Do you have the same controls there?

Mr. Jennings: Senator, our concern is that as a provincial government we really cannot control — we can't defend our own borders. We can react. Once we find that somebody has brought bees in, for instance, we have authority to seize them. If somebody brought some bees through Labrador to the island or even on the ferry to the island and we found out about them, they're not certified, we'd seize them and either quarantine them or destroy them, based on our legislation. But that's a risky business, then, because they're already in and we have to find them.

We're hoping that there might be some control mechanism from outside at the border points. It's a pretty exciting thing to be able to say here's an area of your country that's an island, basically, that does not have varroa mite and some of these problems. It's special, but we can't defend it ourselves.

Senator Robichaud: So you're looking for help to defend exactly what you have there and see how you can develop an industry that you could export to the rest of the provinces.

Mr. Jennings: Yes.

Senator Robichaud: Would that require considerable funds?

Mr. Jennings: If you look at the situation, senator, we have two very serious potato diseases in Newfoundland: potato wart and golden nematode. CFIA has an inspection system in the province to prevent diseased potatoes from leaving our province. It's not an expensive effort. We're suggesting something similar to that on the Nova Scotia side. It would be an education process as well as some kind of an inspection process that says, ''Listen, you can't bring this stuff onto the island of Newfoundland.'' That wouldn't be an expensive thing, I don't think, but it would be exactly what we're looking for.

Senator Robichaud: You are looking for that but on what doors are you knocking, if I may ask?

Mr. Deering: We are having very cursory discussions with the federal government. We are undertaking a bit of an education process ourselves. We have developed some education materials to be distributed at ferry terminals and crossing points.

From our perspective, education is a good first step, but we recognize a lot more needs to be done to secure the provincial borders.

Senator Robichaud: If you had a recommendation for us to put in our report, could you send us wording to that effect?

Mr. Deering: I could distribute for you materials that we've prepared that we intend to distribute at some of the entry points into the province. We don't have a French version at this point; that's our next step. But this is essentially one of the things that we propose to distribute.

Senator Robichaud: Thank you for that.

Mr. McCully, you've mentioned that the number of commercial beekeepers is on the decline because of age.

Mr. McCully: Yes.

Senator Robichaud: I'm sort of looking at blueberries because I'm out of this place in a couple of months. To become a commercial beekeeper at my age would be a factor that you would consider, then, wouldn't you?

Mr. McCully: We'd still welcome you as a beekeeper.

Senator Robichaud: There you go.

You mentioned that proper forage is one of the things bees need.

Mr. McCully: Yes.

Senator Robichaud: In the last few weeks, when I drive along Highway 11 from Moncton to my place in Saint-Louis-de-Kent, there's a hydro line that runs parallel to the highway. It has just turned brown in the last while because it has been sprayed — I don't know with what, but it was a powerful herbicide.

Are there any steps taken to prevent companies from using that on power lines so that we can have some forage areas for the bees?

Mr. McCully: To answer your question, there isn't anything from a pollinator perspective that I'm aware of as far as trying to prevent companies from spraying the power lines, but it's a valid point and concern. Those types of areas could be good habitat for native pollinators, and you're going to destroy the habitat for the native pollinators. It certainly would help if that was not sprayed, but as you can appreciate, there are also concerns when bushes and trees are growing up in terms of the maintenance of power lines.

Senator Robichaud: Yes, but there is an alternative. Machines can go in and clean those.

Mr. McCully: That's right — just mowing.

Senator Robichaud: And you still have the grass.


Senator Maltais: I have two quick questions, because many of our colleagues would also like to ask questions, and I would like to leave them some time.

My first question is for Mr. McCully from New Brunswick. You mentioned in your brief that you are short on pollinators, that you had to import them from Quebec or the United States. But I did not hear you mention Nova Scotia. Do you import pollinators from Nova Scotia?


Mr. McCully: There might be a few hives but nothing significant, mostly because our seasons are so close to being the same for pollination. Their blueberry fields are in blossom about the same time as our own, so they also are looking for additional hives as well from other areas.

Ontario's pollination season tends to be earlier on some of the apples and so on. They're available and stronger than our local hives because they build up earlier in the spring and then they transport them to New Brunswick.

Nova Scotia does not have enough pollination units either, so it would be difficult to get them from them, as they need them for their own use.


Senator Maltais: First, I would like to welcome the witnesses from Newfoundland and Labrador because we do not often get to see them in the agriculture sector. We are pleased to have you here today.

To reassure Senator Robichaud, the only province that could invade you with bad bees is Quebec. We share a border with Labrador, and from Labrador City, I do not know much about drones, bumblebees or honeybees.

Senator Robichaud: However, there are blueberries.

Senator Maltais: No, no, no, not in Labrador City. If you know your geography, Senator Robichaud, there are not any there.

As for the mortality rate, with the exception of the somewhat particular winter we had in Canada last year, has there been much loss? Do you have any statistics on that?


Mr. Jennings: Senator, you're referring to what we would expect to lose in an average year. Out of 100 hives, we would expect to have a 15 or 20 per cent loss in a normal year. That could come from not enough forage or if they stop storing the bees properly during a normal winter. There are things that beekeepers need to do to make sure that their hives are properly taken care of over winter. Even in a good winter, it's still pretty cold for a honeybee. Honeybees are used to milder weather.

The big thing that we have is that there are a lot of pressures on honeybees in other jurisdictions that we don't have. Even without the varroa mite, we don't have to use miticides. They affect bee health, as well; although it protects them from varroa mite, it has an impact on bee health. We don't use miticides. There are a lot of things we don't do.


Senator Maltais: I am from the north shore of Quebec, and beekeepers have told us that the rate of loss was much lower on the north shore, in the Saguenay River Valley and Lake Saint-Jean area, compared to central Quebec, central Ontario and the Prairies, with the exception of winters like the one last year. There is a similarity between the two because the climate is the same. Another factor that has an impact is the lack of monoculture. Bees are found across the island, and they occupy virgin territory. This is quite favourable, first for the quality of the honey and, second, for the health of the bees. Do you agree with that theory?


Mr. Jennings: Certainly, senator. One of the things research has shown is that bees that have access to a variety of food are a lot healthier than ones that have one crop to feed on. It's like us in that if you have a balanced diet, you're better off. That certainly shows in bees.

You're right: We don't have hundreds of acres of one crop in one spot. Our landscape is very broken up; our farm landscape is very fractured. There are always things in the hinterland between farms that bees can forage on, as well as the crops that are planted for them. That's a really good point.


Senator Dagenais: I would like to say something, and perhaps all three of you will be able to respond.

On the weekend, Radio-Canada was airing the television show La semaine verte, and they were talking about bees and neonicotinoids. During the show, I remained confused when a researcher said that the impact of insecticides on the death of bees should be put into perspective and that he saw no direct link between the use of pesticides and the death of bees. That last comment surprised me. However, another researcher said that hives with access to diversified forage and a pesticide-free environment had fewer bee deaths.

I do not know what you think about that. We have been studying the problem for some time, and we have concluded that pesticides kill bees. However, a researcher says that we need to put it into perspective and that this is not necessarily the case.


Mr. Deering: Based on the research that we have funded, I tend to agree with the observations. It seems to me the link between neonicotinoids, in particular, and bee health is a pattern. Scientifically, however, it doesn't seem to be conclusive. In fact, I expect that Dr. Williams would have presented that data when he spoke to you guys on September 18.

There's no question that there's an exciting and relevant piece of work that needs to be done around that, but at this point it seems to be more conclusive as related to the pests associated with bees and diseases and things like that.


Senator Dagenais: Would you like to add anything, Mr. Jennings?


Mr. Jennings: To follow up on that, the use of neonics is a protective measure. It's protection that farmers use against any possible infestation of the insects that it controls. In lots of cases, it's used when the insects don't even show up.

One of the things that we encourage, not only with neonicotinoids but also with other pesticides and insecticides that farmers use — because a lot of other ones impact bees as well — is the use of integrated pest management and that they measure their use only when they really need to use it. A threshold is established for most crops which says that below a certain threshold you don't apply insecticides and above the threshold you do. If we get more precise about how we do these things, we would have less of an impact on things like not only honeybees but native bees as well. I think we need to do a better job in managing the way we use the chemicals that we have, for sure.

There's a conflict between different categories of agriculture. If you're growing soybeans, obviously you want to make sure that nothing eats your soybeans. If you have an apiary next to you, however, that apiary doesn't believe in that philosophy. They think you should not use it unless you really need to use it.


Senator Dagenais: Would you like to add anything, Mr. McCully?


Mr. McCully: In New Brunswick our beekeepers are concerned with neonicotinoids, but we haven't seen any strong linkage to prove that is a concern.

Our bigger issue would be, say, blueberry producers. When the hives are out in the fields and they all of a sudden have an unexpected pest problem, they're forced to go out and spray and they may not always notify the beekeeper. As a result, there is some unintended exposure to beehives from that pesticide. I would argue that's a bigger issue for us in New Brunswick than the neonics.

Senator Beyak: Thank you, gentlemen, for excellent and informative presentations. I have two questions, one for Mr. McCully and then one for Mr. Deering and Mr. Jennings.

Mr. McCully, you told us that up to 2014 the government provided incentives for splitting the hives to help them winter better. We had a gentleman here last week from the United States. He called it the Minnesota split and it was very successful. Is your government considering extending the funding? What were the results of the research that you've done to date?

Mr. McCully: We would definitely consider extending the funding. The only reason we didn't provide it this year is because we had a change in our programming which required the sector to provide an industry strategy for the next four or five years. We wanted to make sure the money we were investing in the beekeeping sector was where it was more important to invest. The association itself is still working on the strategy. They haven't submitted it yet, but we're still optimistic that it will come in and the funding will be provided.

We have questioned the value in our investments. If you look at the total number of hives back in 2000 and the total number we have today, it has been up and down all the way. Do we have more hives today than what we had in 2000? Very few. We have spent a lot of money, but that has basically allowed us to sustain our beekeeping industry. If we hadn't invested those dollars, we feel we would have next to no hives in the province at this point.

The way most of our guys have increased their hives is through splitting the colonies. They'll get one strong colony, split it into two and then put the new queen in the hive. Then they'll have two strong colonies as they build up.

Senator Beyak: That's what he told us, too. It sounded interesting.

Gentlemen, you are very fortunate to be in your position. Could you tell me where the first hive came from, where you got the bees and the person who did that? Obviously, they're healthy and well after all this time.

Mr. Jennings: Senator, I think it was a fluke. Chances are it came out of either Ontario or Nova Scotia, or something like that. We were fortunate enough not to have the pest burden come with it. That's all we can say to that.

Obviously now that we know we have this, we are concerned about keeping it.

Senator Oh: Gentlemen, thanks for being here.

Have you come across research that indicates why your bee health in Newfoundland and Labrador appears to be in better condition than in any other province?

Mr. Jennings: We've had three rounds of almost complete surveys of our hives for disease presence. The latest one was a year ago. Each one of those has reinforced that the diseases aren't there. We do have some Nosema, which is a fungal disease that exists there, but the mites aren't there and a lot of the other diseases aren't there either. We need to continue to monitor the situation, and we will.

Senator Oh: So your beehives stay in Newfoundland over the winter?

Mr. Jennings: Yes, they definitely stay in Newfoundland.

Senator Oh: You don't take them to warmer places?

Mr. Jennings: No.

Senator Robichaud: In New Brunswick you mentioned there was ongoing research on native bees. How far along are you in that research? What results is it giving?

Mr. McCully: The research that we have conducted in New Brunswick has actually been from researchers out of Nova Scotia who have been doing some Maritime work. It has been through their studies that we've learned how many native pollinators we have. They're also trying to encourage planting native wildflower plants along blueberry fields, for example, so you can have a continuous supply of pollinating plants throughout the year. Having a pollination crop of blueberries for three weeks early in the spring is great, but after that there are not a lot of flowering plants. If we can plant more flowering plants to have a pollen source for native bees they'll stick around, increase in numbers and be strong for the future.

Senator Robichaud: In Newfoundland and Labrador, you also do a bit of research on native bees.

Mr. Jennings: Yes, sir. Over the last five or six years, we've done a complete survey of which native bumblebee species we have as well as the leafcutters. We've actually generated a new guide to the bees of Newfoundland and Labrador that we didn't have before, which identifies all the species we have.

There is ongoing research now. We have a big effort in developing a cranberry sector in our province, and pollination is very important. We're comparing the impact of native pollinators versus honeybees, pollination in cranberry fields, and we're getting interesting numbers. Preliminary numbers tell us that honeybees don't do a good job on cranberries, whereas bumblebees and native pollinators do. There's some interesting work going on with that.

The Chair: To the officials from the Government of New Brunswick and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, thank you very much for sharing your comments. They were very knowledgeable and instructive.

Honourable senators, please welcome, via video conference, officials from the Government of Nova Scotia: Karen Wong-Petrie, Acting Manager, Animal Crop Services; and Jason Sproule, Bee Health and Minor Use Pesticide Coordinator.

I have been informed by the clerk that Ms. Wong-Petrie will be making the presentation, following which senators will be asking questions of both of you.

Karen Wong-Petrie, Acting Manager, Animal Crop Services, Government of Nova Scotia: Good evening, Mr. Chair. I wanted to thank the committee for the invitation to speak with you today on the importance of bees and bee health for our agricultural industry. Honeybee health is of great concern for the Nova Scotia government. We are heavily reliant on pollination for major crops, things like apples and blueberries, for example.

I'd like to take the next few minutes to set the Nova Scotia context for you. In our province, we don't generally or we haven't generally experienced large declines of bee populations evident in other provinces. That doesn't mean we're not concerned about the issue, and we look forward to better understanding the factors that affect bee health.

The true value of honeybee industries in Nova Scotia is its contribution to agricultural commodities. As I mentioned, bee pollination is essential to apple and blueberry production, two of Nova Scotia's largest crops in terms of acreage and value. Pears, cranberries, plums, cherries and other fruits and vegetables also benefit.

Currently we have 321 beekeepers in Nova Scotia keeping approximately 23,000 hives, and we have approximately 18,350 hives rented to growers for pollination services, providing approximately $2.5 million in revenue. Nova Scotia is home to a wide variety of wild pollinators, including hoverflies, moths, butterflies, beetles and other insects, but by far the most important pollinators are bees.

Native pollinators are extremely valuable. There is not a lot of research on wild pollinators in Nova Scotia. However, an abundance and diversity of bees are observed and documented in many of our orchards and crop fields. Some low-input farmers rely solely on natural pollinator bees and still produce profitable yields. However, it's likely that optimal yields require contributions from both wild and managed bees.

The greatest threat to our wild pollinators is changing landscape, large monoculture farming, flowerless landscapes and reduction in habitat. We are observing a shift in species abundance. Some species of bumblebees that were once widespread, we don't observe as much anymore; however, we have other species that have increased in numbers.

Climate change, pesticide exposure and the spillover of infection from managed bees are also presumed to affect wild bee populations. However, there have been no tests or reports of bee deaths due to pesticides in our province.

The Nova Scotia industry has been concerned about losses for several years. In 2013 our loss rate was 22.7 per cent. Most other years it has been normal, averaging at approximately 15 per cent.

Pesticides do not seem to be an issue in Nova Scotia. Some of this may be due to the diverse landscape of the industry in our province. Bee colonies are traditionally found near our wild blueberry fields and fruit crops that tend not to be near the grain industry.

Nova Scotia does not rely on seed crops that require pollination, for example, canola. However, there are about 35,000 acres of corn and 10,000 acres of soybean in Nova Scotia grown from treated seeds. This means there is a level of bee mortality risk and it is why we are concerned about this issue.

It's also important to point out that Nova Scotia has not had high winter losses in comparison to other regions in the country, nor have we had any bee deaths related to neonicotinoids. We do support and maintain wild pollinator habitat, but we still need more pollinators in our province. Because of this, we have programs in place such as the Pollination Expansion Program, which has helped expand pollination for blueberry crops primarily while growing the commercial bee industry in Nova Scotia.

As you appreciate, hearing the accounts of the other provinces, the bee health issue is a complex one and we understand it involves issues related to pesticides, colony management, pests and climate change. Nova Scotia will continue its efforts to grow more hives and attract healthy hives to support our pollination needs. We are concerned about these issues and we look forward to working with the federal government and other provinces to help address bee health concerns.

The Chair: Thank you very much. The first question will be from a senator from your own province, Senator Ogilvie, please.

Senator Ogilvie: Thank you both for your presentations. I think you've actually answered the basis of my questions, Ms. Wong-Petrie, but I want to go over it because it's very important information that you have on the Nova Scotia experience.

First of all, could you repeat the number of permanent colonies of bees in Nova Scotia? You gave the number but I didn't get it down.

Ms. Wong-Petrie: It is 23,000 hives.

Senator Ogilvie: I understood you to say that not many of these hives live within the vicinity of or within foraging distance of crops that are treated to any significant degree with neonicotinoids; is that correct?

Ms. Wong-Petrie: That's correct. My co-worker, Jason Sproule, our bee health coordinator, may be able to comment in addition to that, but I believe that is the case.

Jason Sproule, Bee Health and Minor Use Pesticide Coordinator, Government of Nova Scotia: Yes, it might be a bit of a generalization, but I would say for the most part there is a bit of a geographic separation between our seed-treated grain crops and our other horticultural fruit-producing crops.

Additionally, we just don't have the field sizes that some other regions, some other provinces may have. You can imagine a small field size, a small field treated with pesticides. Less forage is available overall. Does that make sense?

Senator Ogilvie: Yes, it does. I'm quite aware of the crop size, but it's important to get some of this information on the record.

You said that there is approximately a 15 per cent overwintering loss on average, but in what year was it that the roughly 27 per cent loss occurred?

Ms. Wong-Petrie: That was 2013, so it would have been last winter.

Senator Ogilvie: The information we have from Nova Scotia is very helpful to the overall understanding of the importance of neonicotinoids in this overall issue, and I thank you very much for those answers.

Senator Robichaud: Do you attribute the huge losses to a very severe, cold winter? We've had very severe, cold winters in the past also.

Ms. Wong-Petrie: I will defer to Jason to comment on that technical issue.

Mr. Sproule: I'm hesitant to say why exactly we had those losses. The weather is definitely a factor, and it's not just a deep cold winter, but maybe a wet spring, like a slow buildup in spring also extends the winter, reduces the amount of time the bees have early in the season to get out, to take cleansing flights and to find early forage.

Senator Robichaud: In Nova Scotia, do you know if they spray transmission lines to kill all vegetation that grows under those lines and use herbicides like we do in New Brunswick? Is that happening in your province?

Ms. Wong-Petrie: You're referring to activities around glyphosate use under power lines and corridors like that?

Senator Robichaud: Yes, that's right.

Ms. Wong-Petrie: I'm not aware of whether those lines would be interacting with our agricultural fields.

I don't know, Jason, if you have anything to add.

Mr. Sproule: I'm afraid I don't. It's a good question. I'll look into that. I haven't heard of that.

Senator Robichaud: I'm asking because many witnesses have made the point that forage for bees is very important, to have a diversity of plants and where they can go after they've pollinated the field crops. Large areas along roadways and power lines could be used for that purpose. Would you agree with that?

Mr. Sproule: Yes. I would agree that some of those areas could definitely be used for those purposes. I cannot tell you what herbicides are sprayed, if any, along roadsides and power transmission lines. I know the Department of Transportation has a maintenance schedule and a lot of it relies on mowing.

Yes, definitely those represent significant sources of possible forage for both wild and honeybees.


Senator Maltais: There are specialists and researchers at Dalhousie University who do a lot of research on bee mortality. Are you in regular contact with those researchers? Are there possible solutions emerging or do we still have nothing?


Ms. Wong-Petrie: I know Jason attended Dalhousie University. He is an alumnus at the agricultural campus at Dalhousie University. I am not aware of any direct collaboration with Dalhousie University, but I think Jason may be able to comment on that.

Mr. Sproule: I do have a close working relationship with Dr. Chris Cutler at Dalhousie University's Faculty of Agriculture in Truro, as well as some other researchers in the wild blueberry research program. I'm not sure who specifically or which mortality issues we're talking about. Could you provide a little bit more context?


Senator Maltais: Based on last year, in Canada, we saw a mortality rate of about 30 per cent in the hives. It seems that the situation in your region is almost the same as in Canada. In addition to cold years, there is also the problem of varroa mites, pesticide use and everything that makes the decreasing number of bees a very specific case.

Does Dalhousie University have contact with the universities in Moncton, Fredericton or the other provinces about bee mortality?


Mr. Sproule: I'm going to say that some of the researchers at Dalhousie are looking at the effects of individual pesticides on bees, both in terms of immediate toxicity and sublethal exposure.

I'm also aware of an upcoming project evaluating the quality of queens brought into the province, imported from the United States, South America and New Zealand. I do have frequent contact with researchers at other universities in the province, and there are certainly several research projects either on the go now or anticipated in the immediate future.

Senator Tardif: Many witnesses have stressed the importance of diversified forage for honeybee health, and I understand that Nova Scotia, not having large monocultural crops, does have diversified forage for bees. Would you say that you have adequate nutrition for your bees, or do you need to supplement the diet of your bees?

Mr. Sproule: Honeybee diets are typically supplemented early in the spring with pollen patties, and as well in the spring and fall they receive sugar syrup treatments to improve their health and build up their strength quickly.

We do have a fair amount of alternative forage, but it's important in areas where bees are kept to have forage at every point throughout the growing season. We need forage early in the spring, and then hives go to pollination and the crop provides some forage there. But afterward and throughout the rest of the summer, even until late in the fall, we both have and would benefit from more forage sources, yes.

Senator Tardif: There is a lack, if I understand, of pollinator services in your province; is that correct? There is a need for an increase, or do you have sufficient bees to do the required pollination activities?

Ms. Wong-Petrie: We recognize that there has been a need in the past, and that is why we had the Pollination Expansion Program in place. The intent is to continue to have that, because even though it has expanded, the commercial bee industry, I think it can be said that we still see that there is capacity there to expand it more.

Senator Tardif: How do you propose to fill that need? Do you bring in bees from other provinces?

Ms. Wong-Petrie: Yes, we do.

Senator Tardif: So bee transportation from other provinces is provided for in the regulations in Nova Scotia.

Ms. Wong-Petrie: Absolutely. We have quite a robust regulatory structure around importation of bees. We follow the national importation of bee protocol, and we have a Bee Industry Act. Jason, in addition to being our bee health coordinator, is also our inspector. He would inspect imported bees coming into the province.


Senator Dagenais: My question is for Mr. Sproule. Surely, you have heard about neonicotinoids, a fairly popular pesticide, but have you heard about clothianidin? If you have, could you tell us about it and tell us whether it affects the survival of bees in your area?


Mr. Sproule: I am certainly aware of clothianidin. In Nova Scotia, we don't see the effects that other provinces are seeing, which may be due to our diverse landscape or small crop fields or just that we may not have as many of those grain crops. We do have some.

I'm going to defer to Karen.

Ms. Wong-Petrie: I can't speak to that particular pesticide, but when it does come to how Nova Scotia approaches regulatory aspects and the science around pesticide control, we do look for help from Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency, the PMRA, to provide that information and would certainly look to documentation and recommendations they have around restrictions and use of products such as that.

Senator Beyak: Thank you for your presentation.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada recently announced a $1 million grant to the Beekeepers Commission of Alberta, but it's for a national study for four years across Canada for bee health in all the colonies. They will be looking at pesticides, diseases and mites. I wondered if your province already collects that data and if you'll be participating in that study, if you're invited or not.

Ms. Wong-Petrie: Jason, I don't know if you could speak to that particular issue or the awareness of AAFC's program.

Mr. Sproule: I recently became aware of that. I would think that we certainly would participate if and when asked. I think that that project is going to involve mostly Alberta and Manitoba, at least in the first year or two, and it might be year three or four before they request samples to look at bee diseases and pesticide presence in hives in the Eastern provinces. We'd be amenable to that.

Yes, we have looked and conducted surveys for some pests in the past, particularly the tracheal mite. In the last number of years, there have been annual surveys to establish whether tracheal mites are present in the province. They have been found once in the past. I don't think it's established.

We're trying to get a survey in the works right now where samples will either be collected this fall or early in the spring and submitted to labs for analysis. Any samples that were submitted last year tested negative.

As for looking at pesticides, again, we haven't seen any bee die-offs related to pesticide poisoning, so it's not as big a concern here.

I know Dalhousie had done sampling of hives in the Maritimes, looking at pesticide presence in wax and samples of honeybees, and it wasn't astounding. I'm not sure if the results have been published yet, but there were some fungicides. I think the majority of pesticides found in the hives were the ones that beekeepers put in the hives: acaricides, miticides, treatments and things like that.

Senator Robichaud: You said that some producers rely almost entirely on native pollinators. They pollinate the apples orchards, but they also pollinate blueberry crops, which are quite considerable. Is there a large transportation of the hives from one part of the province to another where this could affect the health of the bees?

Mr. Sproule: Any time you transport them, it is a stress on the hives. They do travel some distance, and I'm hesitant to say how far. Some commercial beekeepers would probably be able to transport a little farther than your average hobbyist with under 50 hives. Yes, transportation can be a stress.

As well, the act of renting hives for wild blueberry pollination service can be a stress. It's not considered to be the most nutritious of forage sources. Often hives do come back a little bit weak from blueberry pollination and then have to recover over the course of the summer.

Senator Robichaud: When they pollinate blueberries, where else do they go after that for pollination purposes or do they have to rely on forage they find in the wild?

Mr. Sproule: Some of them may be used for blueberries in different locations. Because there are climatic regional differences in the province, some hives will be put out more than once for pollination. They may go from an early blooming blueberry field to another region of the province, or may get exported to another province to pollinate blueberry fields in another area. They may go to cranberry pollination following blueberry pollination or towards another crop such as a tree fruit crop. For several of them, one or two blueberry fields might be it, and they're used for honey production following that.

Senator Robichaud: If I understand correctly, most of them are not transported over long distances; is that right?

Mr. Sproule: We may not have very long distances to traverse. It's a smaller province. Compared to some other regions I would agree, but it could still be a couple of hundred kilometres. Wherever possible, people try to find fields that are closer to their home yards.

Senator Robichaud: Am I correct in saying that if I'm a beekeeper from New Brunswick, I cannot bring my bees to Nova Scotia; I'll be stopped at the border in the Tantramar Marshes?

Mr. Sproule: If you're a beekeeper in New Brunswick, can you export your hives to Nova Scotia? It's not a situation that often comes up, to be honest, because usually it goes the other way. When hives are imported to our province, they typically come from Ontario, Quebec and then we export hives to New Brunswick. There's not a lot of incentive to go the other way.

Senator Robichaud: I thought I saw a sign near the border that you cannot import bees in Nova Scotia. I don't know if they removed it.

Mr. Sproule: Well, the sign is still there, but it should probably read ''by permit only.'' You can apply for a permit, and as long as certain conditions are met — i.e., the hives are inspected by the exporting province and have received treatment for tracheal mites — a permit is usually approved and those bees can be brought in.

Ms. Wong-Petrie: To speak to the inspection framework that we do have, Jason would be involved with that check at the provincial border typically.

Senator Tardif: We know that many factors affect bee health. What are your current research priorities on this matter? What financial resources do you put in in support of research?

Ms. Wong-Petrie: I referred to the Pollination Expansion Program that we've had in place. That isn't a research activity. It is a growth fund that we have offered the industry to be able to grow the number of pollinators that we have. Again, I would defer to Jason on this one in the fact that we has his network with Dalhousie agricultural campus, which is actually quite handily placed next to Jason in Truro in the same vicinity where he's located this evening. In addition to their research activities, the linkages and networks we have established with Dalhousie would certainly increase the discussion we have with our beekeepers.

Jason, perhaps you could speak to your relationship with the beekeepers association within our province as well, which I think is a very important role that our provincial government plays.

Mr. Sproule: I very much consider it a responsibility to maintain a good working relationship with the Nova Scotia Beekeepers Association. I regularly attend meetings and advise and we discuss issues, as well as ideas for research projects.

I can tell you that two research projects are on the table right now. One is looking at the carrying capacity of the province, trying to qualify and quantify forage sources throughout the province in different areas and also look at how those resources may be over-utilized, underutilized, determining where there is the room for expansion and growth, and coming up with an optimal number of hives for the province.

Another project they are looking at is the health of imported queens. Queens are regularly brought in in the spring, and later in the season, and there has been some concern over the performance of those queens in the hives throughout the season. That's another thing they want to look at.

Senator Tardif: Thank you. I appreciate the information.

The Chair: Before we conclude, with the indulgence of all senators, the chair would like to ask one question.

To the witnesses from Nova Scotia, it is reported that Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency, PMRA, has identified agricultural practices related to neonic treatment, corn and soybean seeds as the main cause explaining high bee mortality in Ontario and Quebec.

I know that you provide leadership in research in Nova Scotia. The issue of neonics has received much attention in Ontario and Quebec. To what extent is the use of this pesticide an issue in your province? How many incidents of bee mortality related to the use of neonics have been reported in your province to date, if any?

Ms. Wong-Petrie: Our province doesn't rely heavily on seed crops that require pollination, although we do have about 35,000 acres of corn and 10,000 acres of soybean grown from treated seeds, so it is a concern. To answer the specific question around bee mortality associated with neonics, we have not had any.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

From the senators that have the mandate to study bee health, to the officials of Nova Scotia, thank you very much for sharing your ideas and your recommendations with us. We appreciate it.

Honourable senators, before I adjourn the meeting, do I have consensus to distribute information from the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in one language?


Senator Robichaud: Will the document be translated?


The Chair: The clerk and I have been assured that we will have translation into the other language.

Therefore, there is consensus. It will be distributed.

To the witnesses again, thank you very much.

(The committee adjourned.)