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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Agriculture and Forestry

Issue 18 - Evidence - Meeting of October 30, 2014


OTTAWA, Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry met this day at 9:02 a.m. to continue its study on the importance of bees and bee health in the production of honey, food and seed in Canada.

Senator Percy Mockler (Chair) in the chair.

[Translation]

The Chair: Welcome to this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. We are going to formally introduce our witness in a few moments.

I am Percy Mockler, senator from New Brunswick, chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. I would like to ask the senators to introduce themselves.

Senator Robichaud: I am Fernand Robichaud from Saint-Louis-de-Kent, New Brunswick.

Senator Merchant: I am Pana Merchant from the province of Saskatchewan.

Senator Tardif: Good morning, madam. I am Claudette Tardif from the province of Alberta in Western Canada.

Senator Maltais: Good morning, madam. Ghislain Maltais, senator from Quebec City, Quebec.

[English]

Senator Beyak: Good morning. Senator Lynn Beyak, Ontario.

Senator Oh: Good morning. Senator Victor Oh, Ontario.

Senator Unger: Good morning. I am Betty Unger from Alberta.

[Translation]

Senator Dagenais: Jean-Guy Dagenais from Montreal, Quebec.

Senator Ogilvie: Good morning, madam. Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie, senator from Nova Scotia.

The Chair: Thank you, honourable senators. Ms. Chauzat is the deputy head of the European Reference Laboratory for Honeybee Health. On behalf of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, we thank you for accepting our invitation to share your opinions, recommendations and vision with us.

The committee is continuing its study on the importance of pollinators in agriculture and the measures that we need to take to protect them. Ms. Chauzat, the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry has been authorized by the Senate of Canada 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 honeybees to the pollination of crops — plants, fruits and vegetables — is estimated at over $2 billion annually. We officially welcome this morning by video conference from the World Organization for Animal Health, Marie-Pierre Chauzat, deputy head of the European Reference Laboratory for Honeybee Health. Ms. Chauzat, thank you for accepting our invitation to appear today.

I would now invite you to make your presentation and senators will ask you questions afterwards. On that note, as we would say in Acadia, in New Brunswick and in Canada, if you ever visit Canada, we will make you feel right at home. Please go ahead.

Marie-Pierre Chauzat, Deputy Head, European Reference Laboratory for Honeybee Health, World Organization for Animal Health: Thank you and good morning, everyone. Thank you for welcoming me to your committee. I am very honoured. This is a first for me and I am delighted to be here. I will be speaking in French, but I understand English as well. I am using some video equipment to make a rather short presentation and to open the conversation afterwards.

As you mentioned in your introduction, bees are indeed important for the production of bee products, honey in particular, royal jelly and pollen. However, bees are also important for the production of food, be it for animals or people, and they are important for maintaining the so-called biodiversity in various ecosystems.

Lastly, bees have clearly sparked the interest of scientists and poets. Once you start studying bees, you cannot stop, because they are social animals and they are fascinating in many ways, especially from this social perspective and in the way work is distributed in their colonies.

We must also remember that honeybees, those raised in hives, often represent pollinators as a whole. We often forget that fact. Pollinators include butterflies, beetles, diptera, hymenoptera and small gnats that may not mean a lot to the general public, but that play a role in pollinating a great deal of plants.

As you said, in Canada, the value of bees as a service is at $2 billion annually. A number of studies have been done and, in Europe, pollination is estimated at 153 billion euros per year. In the U.S., the value of the pollination service was estimated at $14.6 billion per year. These data are published in scientific studies and are well known. I cannot circulate photos through the screen, but there are well-known photos of pollinated and non-pollinated strawberries that show the size of the strawberries and we can see that pollination increases both the quality and quantity of the crops.

Of course, bees are subject to a number of stressors. Today, I will quickly go over the three main stressors affecting bees, but we must keep in mind other factors such as seasons, genetics and physiology, factors that are fairly well known and extensively studied. In the allotted time, we will not go into the details. I heard you say in the presentation that you visited a beekeeper; beekeeping techniques also affect the health of bee colonies.

The first factor — do we need a hierarchy? That is something to discuss. The first factor that I will mention has to do with pathogens affecting bees. There are many types of pathogens assembled in large groups that are more or less harmful toward bee health. The most well-known pathogen is the one we have studied a great deal, the small Varroa mites that come from Asia and have changed hosts; they have gone from the Asian bees to honeybees, European bees, and are wreaking havoc in countries around the world, with the exception of Australia and a few very deep valleys, as well as a few islands.

There are other pathogens, and the most regulated disease is the American foulbrood, caused by a very contagious and viral bacterium. Trade agreements are regulated around this bacterium.

There are other bacteria and also a protozoan — the Nosema — that we hear so much about. Of course, there are also viruses that cause more or fewer recognized symptoms that affect bees. We also find exotic pathogens in other countries, including in my country. These pathogens are currently the subject of lively discussion in Europe.

Until last month, the small hive beetle was still exotic in Europe, but it is not considered exotic in Canada. As in the case of the foulbrood, very tough restrictions have been imposed on imported bee products, especially from queen bees imported from the countries affected by this exotic parasite. Another type of parasite is the Tropilaelaps mite, which, for now, is exotic around the world, with the exception of Asia where it is endemic. This mite is also subject to very strict control measures seeking to prevent it from spreading around the world. This is a very quick sketch of the pathogenic stressors that affect bees.

The second major group of stressors consists of pesticides divided into categories: fungicides, acaricides, insecticides and herbicides.

Today, I will talk about one class of insecticides. Systemic insecticides receive the most attention because they enter the plant's system. They are generally applied to the plant either through seed coating or through foliar application. Piercing-sucking insects that feed on plant juices are poisoned by the insecticide circulating in the plant's system. This distribution method was invented by agrochemical companies to reduce pesticide drift, which is a major problem. When pesticides are sprayed on crops, a mist is created and can spread beyond those crops and onto neighbouring plants, potentially causing poisoning. Systemic insecticides were invented to avoid that spray mist. Those insecticides are causing problems because they were not expected to be so prevalent in matrices important for bees, such as nectar and pollen. Bees feed on nectar and pollen, and insecticides can spread throughout the plant all the way to the nectar and the pollen, which are then gathered by bees and brought back to the hive. That has various impacts on the beehive. All bee castes are exposed to pesticides, from the queen through nurse bees, to all colony workers, including the males. The pesticides can be stocked in the hive reserves — bees' honey and bread. Bee bread is pollen mixed with enzymes, honey and nectar. That is one way bees are exposed to systemic pesticides.

Another way is through dust, and this concerns only systemic insecticides used in seed coating. Seeds are coated with those insecticides and, when the seed is sown — often by way of air seeders that use air pressure to inject the seeds into the soil — seed abrasion occurs. So, many insecticides contaminate dust, which can settle directly on any bee colonies close to sown fields and on adjacent flowers and seedlings, especially in the springtime. That is when colonies begin their development. During the flowering period in the spring, bees seek flowers, which are then fairly rare. When dust settles on flowers that border fields, there are significant risks of acute poisoning. In brief, these are the two major types of systemic insecticide exposure. There are others.

The third major factor that influences bee health is the environment. I will briefly touch upon two points: environmental degradation, and intensive agricultural practices that are changing landscapes by making them homogenous and affecting the quality and diversity of food consumed by bees. Currently, Europe, the United States and Canada are encouraging the development of flowered fallows to address this lack of diversity.

The environmental aspect contains another factor. I am talking about habitat destruction. This factor more particularly affects wild bees, which need a wide variety of plants and suitable breeding habitats. Some bees make their nest in the hollow stems of plants or in burrows. To develop normally, the bees need landscape diversity, which is often compromised by industrial agriculture that tends to homogenize landscapes.

So those are the three major sources of stress, which are of course interrelated. These are new theories, which are tested through experiments. The first results were released in 2010. Tests were conducted by the scientific community. In particular, these tests deal with the relationship between pathogens and pesticides, and diet diversity and pesticides. All those factors were tested in a laboratory setting. Various results were obtained with what is referred to as potentialities and synergies within different factors. This means that the harmful action of factors can be added up based on experimental conditions. All those factors are very difficult to measure when it comes to the natural terrain conditions. We are starting to see results, including a French study published in Science. That study made a lot of noise regarding the effects of pesticide used on the ground. It also provided some interesting response elements.

I would like to end my presentation by saying that the causes and consequences of bee decline are interrelated. The increase in the world's human population has led countries to develop mass agriculture to produce food worldwide, and that, in turn, has led to increased use of pesticide and to environmental degradation. This way of doing things could contribute to honeybee and wild pollinator mortality, which will lead to a drop in food production. So we come full circle, with the result being a significant impact on human population, which ultimately could end up less well fed.

I hope that my presentation was fairly clear and brief. I am now prepared to answer your questions.

Senator Tardif: Ms. Chauzat, thank you very much for your excellent presentation. If I have understood correctly, Europe has imposed a two-year moratorium on the use of neonicotinoids. Have you noted a change in bee health since that moratorium was imposed? If so, what have the effects been?

Ms. Chauzat: Your question is multi-faceted. The moratorium was imposed in Europe a few months ago. I should point out that the moratorium applies only to honey plants — plants from which bees can gather nectar. Since bees do not gather nectar from other plants, such as cereals, neonicotinoids can be used on those plants. So I am providing you with background information to give you the most complete perspective of what is happening in Europe. This is the first point.

The second point is that no study has been conducted in Europe to assess that moratorium. In other words, for the time being, no coordinated study has been done across Europe to assess the moratorium. There may be some national studies, but no Europe-wide study is being conducted.

This moratorium was imposed only a few months ago, and we certainly need to keep in mind that bee health also depends on the climate. The moratorium has still not been in place for a full year, and bee mortality is generally observed during two important periods of the year — at the end of winter and during the summer.

So to answer your question on what the moratorium's impact has been, it is difficult to say for Europe as a whole, since there is no program in place to collect information on this issue in a standardized manner across Europe. For instance, in Italy, this moratorium has been in place for a long time because, on a national level, they had prohibited the use of certain neonicotinoids on some plants. Italy is saying that the mortality related to the dust released during the seedling phase has been greatly reduced. So those are national examples that are not applicable across Europe, since no data is currently available for Europe as a whole.

Senator Tardif: Thank you very much, Ms. Chauzat. Other witnesses have said that scientific research concerning the cumulative and chronic effects of pesticides on bee health is lacking. Have you made any scientific advances in that area?

Ms. Chauzat: That is the biggest question on pesticide effects. There are two possible types of exposure — acute and chronic. Acute bee exposure to pesticides is highly regulated. We are no longer seeing major accidents involving acute poisoning stemming from pesticide use, and this is due to European and national regulation of that use. Of course, there are incidents of misuse, there are still accidents, but they happen less frequently.

However, the other type of exposure is chronic. A number of studies have been conducted — in Europe, in the United States and in Canada — demonstrating constant exposure to pesticides year-round, be it through nectar, pollen, honey or wax. For the time being, the published studies show the impact of pesticides on bees, but these studies were conducted in a laboratory setting. Once again, it is very difficult to measure the impact of chronic exposure to pesticides on the ground. As I was saying earlier, mortality in colonies is observed after the winter period. It is currently very difficult to measure the impact of that chronic exposure on winter mortality. It is also difficult to distinguish, in the field, chronic exposure to pesticides from exposure to pathogens. Data on lab results is becoming available, but when it comes to field experiments, the situation is very difficult around the world, be it in Europe or in North America.

Senator Tardif: Thank you, Ms. Chauzat.

Senator Dagenais: Good morning, Ms. Chauzat. The committee has heard from a number of American, European and Australian witnesses over the course of its study. Certain countries, especially Australia, appear to have fewer issues related to bee health. I would say that bee health varies from one country to another, and from one region to another. This applies to Canada, the United States and the European Union. Do you think bee health is affected around the world, and could we even talk about a global decline in bee health?

Ms. Chauzat: That question is difficult to answer because any conclusions obviously have to be based on figures. The situation I am most familiar with, of course, is that in Europe. To remedy this lack of data, the European Commission asked the European Reference Laboratory to conduct a standardized study (EPILOBEE) on a number of European countries — 17 altogether — and measure the bee mortality in those countries. The idea was to compare mortality figures. When mortality figures are being compared, it is important to compare apples to apples — in other words, to compare data stemming from comparable data-gathering protocols.

For instance, mortality data gathered in Canada or the United States is very difficult to compare with European mortality data, as the data-gathering protocols are very different. What is a dead colony? In order to be able to compare the data on dead colonies, the definition needs to be the same in all the countries. That work has been done for two years in Europe, and the data is being analyzed for the second year.

I am in touch with people who have a similar program in the United States (Bee Informed Partnership ± Dennis vanEngelsdorp) — for measuring the mortality — but the protocol is slightly different. We are currently trying to figure out how to compare our data so as to determine whether the mortality is higher in Europe than in the United States, for instance, but we are making sure to compare figures that are actually comparable.

So it is a bit difficult for me to make a statement on the global bee population decline, based on the available figures. There is no doubt that bees around the world are suffering, and there are numerous reports and data showing that bee mortality is higher than it has been in the past. Here I am talking about the apiary memory of all countries involved in beekeeping. In general, we have this science, this ancestral knowledge of what natural colony mortality is.

Senator Robichaud: Thank you for your presentation, which was very thought-provoking and thorough.

You briefly talked about wild bees. Is there any data comparing the effects of the stresses you mentioned — pathogens and pesticides — and the way they can affect wild bees as opposed to honeybees. Is such data available?

Ms. Chauzat: Data on that is becoming available. That research is very recent. The problem is that data is becoming available on wild bees, which are still used by humans. This is the case with, Bombus, bumblebees, which are used for pollination purposes in tomato greenhouses for example. We are also starting to obtain data on bees used in Canada in growing alfalfa. However, wild bees are mainly solitary, and it is very difficult to obtain data on them because it is not easy to breed them experimentally. Observing them in nature is also not easy because they are solitary, so their numbers are lower.

There is more relevant information for experiments concerning other wild bees that do live in some sort of a community, and data is becoming available, both on the effects of pesticides and the presence of pathogens. For example, there are some English studies that have demonstrated the effect of neonicotinoids on wild bumblebee colonies. We know that colonies decrease in size and that the queen lays fewer eggs when there is exposure to fairly low doses of neonicotinoids. Research has also looked into whether those wild bee populations could act as reservoirs of honeybee pathogens, and this is the case. It is more difficult to assess the impact of those pathogens on these populations, but we know that the impact does exist.

All those studies are ongoing, as this is a new research area. There are relatively few studies on wild bees as compared to the recorded studies on honeybees. However, teams of researchers are now looking into this issue, and the results are starting to appear in scientific literature and are providing a clearer view of this problem. It makes sense that this is a problem to these species, since it is an environmental problem affecting all species. We are very focused on honeybees because that is our topic of study. Of course, there are other bees out there, but there are also other animals. That is very well-known. Other animal species — such as birds, earthworms and so on — are also studied by other teams. Those studies cover the impact pesticides have on all animals.

Senator Robichaud: Thank you, Ms. Chauzat.

Senator Maltais: Welcome, Ms. Chauzat. Thank you very much for your presentation.

What is the average length of hibernation in France?

Ms. Chauzat: France is lucky to have two types of climate — a very warm climate in the south and a colder climate in the north. So the length of hibernation in Provence, for example, is fairly short and varies from year to year. It lasts two to three months. The winter period is often when the queen stops laying eggs. At that time, the brood is either highly reduced or non-existent. We may have years in the south of France when there is no period without a brood, and that leads to problems with varroa mites. These are fairly short periods — two or three months — with a reduced brood or without any eggs.

In northern France, those periods can be much longer. For instance, I visited colonies close to Paris that had already stopped laying in the month of October, whereas in the south that is not the case and laying can continue until February or March. We are looking at a period of four or five months, rather. It also depends on the altitude. For instance, in the mountains, it is colder and so the eggless periods can be longer.

Senator Maltais: What is the average rate of loss for all of the beekeepers in France? What is the average rate of bee mortality during the season?

Ms. Chauzat: In winter?

Senator Maltais: Yes, hibernation season.

Ms. Chauzat: As I mentioned, the EPILOBEE program we implemented last year in Europe showed a mortality rate in winter of 15 per cent in France, and so 15 per cent of colony mortality, if you compare the colonies that were alive at the beginning of winter and those that come out alive at the end of winter.

Senator Maltais: You have the same phenomenon. We heard from several Swiss experts; often in Switzerland, there are not enough flowers for the bees to get sufficient pollen to make honey. They told us that they have to give them sugar, so that the bees can make a honey-like substance, known as fence-post honey, which is not pure 100 per cent honey, since there are additives. Does that happen in France?

Ms. Chauzat: Yes, quite so. Beekeepers live from the sale of honey, and so it is in their interest to harvest as much honey as possible to ensure their trade.

There is always a conflict between commercial apiculturist activity and the activity of the colony. What I mean is that the colony needs its honey reserves to get through the winter, and if we take all of their honey, they still have to have something to get through the winter. So if we do not feed that colony then it might not survive winter, given the quantity of food reserves; so either they are fed then with a sugar syrup so that they will have some reserves, but the sugar syrup is quite different from honey. It does not have all of the components that there are in honey, and for hibernation, this creates situations that are not as healthy as if had they consumed the honey they generate. I will not say that that is the most common situation in France, but such situations can arise. A good beekeeper will take good care of his or her colonies and make sure that the colonies can get through the winter, for the most part, using honey. But of course it is not always the case.

Senator Maltais: That increases the mortality rate because if the bee has nothing to eat there will be greater losses. Is the honey you make and market labelled ''100 per cent pure honey''?

Ms. Chauzat: I could not tell you whether it is labeled ''100 per cent pure honey'', because I would rather not hazard an opinion, but it does have the label ''honey'', certainly. France and Europe do analyses, because the honey has to be a ''pure product'', and so adulterated honey, with syrup, is prohibited in France and in Europe. There are analyses that are carried out to detect this fraud. It is fraud when the honey is not ''pure''. Honey is a product that is normally pure, that is to say that no additives should be added to it, otherwise you can no longer call it honey; this aspect is very controlled in Europe and in France.

Senator Maltais: I would have one last question, madam, and I thank you for your answers. Is monoculture in France one factor in the bee decline?

Ms. Chauzat: I cannot give you a yes or no answer. Some studies show that indeed monoculture leads to a loss of diversity in colony food supply. Some very interesting studies were carried out by the INRA, located in the west of France, in a part of France where there are a lot of sunflower and rapeseed crops. The INRA team showed that overall, between rapeseed flowering that takes place in the spring, and that of the sunflowers in July and August, there is a gap during which the environment cannot provide the bees with diverse, sufficient food. The bees often go wanting during those weeks, because between the very strong dietary contribution of rapeseed and that of the sunflowers, there is a period during which the bees do not have enough quality food.

Once again, it is very difficult to point to a single cause. It would be very difficult to say that yes, it is because of this lack of food that all of these bees are dying in France, because we would have to exclude the other factors. We would have to exclude the chronic exposure to pesticides, and pathogens, and in the field those experiments are still hard to do. But it is certain that that lack of diversity and quality of food between two very strong honey-producing periods is a stress factor.

Senator Maltais: Thank you very much. Come and see us in Canada, it would do us good; we could have some more in-depth discussions.

Ms. Chauzat: With pleasure.

[English]

Senator Oh: Good morning, madam. Thank you for your excellent presentation.

Bee health is so important to mankind. With the growing population of the globe, can you imagine the consequences, the impact if honeybees disappear on earth? What are the research priorities of European scientists? Second, what recommendation could you make to this committee about preserving bee health in Canada?

Ms. Chauzat: When you say ''bee health,'' in English ''bee'' means ''honeybee'' and also the other bees, the wild bees. Therefore, if the whole community of bees disappears from the earth, that would be a catastrophe.

Usually when people talk about the disappearance of bees, they talk about honeybee disappearance. Of course, that would be something very dangerous for everybody, for humankind but also for the environment, and that has to be avoided. Most important, if we see that the bees that are taken care of by humans are declining, this means that wild bees, which are more fragile because they are solitary bees and usually depend on one plant, are in danger much more than the honeybees, which, again, are in the care of humankind.

It is very important to have in mind that if the honeybees are suffering, this means the wild bees are suffering even more. We have to bear that in mind and we have to protect all bees, not only honeybees but also wild bees.

Protecting wild bees is much more difficult and requires much more knowledge than protecting honeybees because wild bees have thousands of species with specificities. To protect those bees you need to know the specificities of each species. This requires a lot of knowledge.

If we protect the environment by leaving alone the complexity of the agricultural landscape, leaving alone the biodiversity so there is food for every species of bee, then we protect all species of bees, including the honeybees.

The protection of all species of bees has to go with the protection of the whole environment. This is a global issue.

I'm not sure if I've answered both questions. What was the second question?

Senator Oh: The second question was this: What can you recommend to this committee about preserving bee health in Canada?

Ms. Chauzat: The whole story of industrial agriculture, the lack of diversity in terms of landscape, is also affecting the health of all bees, honeybees and wild bees. For honeybees particularly, of course, we have to take care of the environment because diversity of food and quality of food is important, but also pathogens.

We have a lot of knowledge now on pathogens, which have been introduced into honeybee colonies because of humanity. The increase in trade around the planet imports different pathogens into honeybee colonies. We know that. We know how to control some of them, and we have to protect bee health through fighting pathogens affecting honeybees.

Senator Unger: My question concerns better hive management. Better practices around this issue could reduce the negative effects of some factors on bee health.

Do France and other countries help member countries to develop standards and methods to improve hive management practices? If so, can you describe some of them?

Ms. Chauzat: The lab that I'm working for is focused on pathogens and bee health in general, exposure to pesticides and side questions like GMO. In terms of hive management, we know how a colony has to be managed, but for accommodation, this is more the part of the beekeeping associations and beekeeping sector. There is a European organization for beekeepers. There are national beekeeper organizations in each country, and they do know what is good for colony management.

Of course, in the south of Europe, in very hot countries like Greece, Italy and Spain, the colonies have to be managed differently from the colonies in northern countries like England, Finland and Sweden. Therefore, it is nearly impossible to state a European level such that colonies should be managed in a certain way.

However, national beekeeping associations know that and provide beekeepers with good management practices for beekeeping at regional levels. This usually means providing your colony with sufficient good food year round; avoiding exposure to pathogens; treating your colony against varroa; taking drastic measures when you have a case of American foulbrood; and keeping the apiary and your material very clean. All these prophylactic measures are usually advertised by the beekeeping sector. If you apply all these measures, you will have a colony that is in good form to produce honey, pollen and bees.

Senator Beyak: At the beginning you mentioned that techniques at apiaries greatly influence bee health. Senator Unger asked about that just now. Do you know about the splitting of hives and the queens in different splits? Various people have mentioned that, but no one has been able to elaborate on it. We may have to ask the beekeepers association, as you recommended, but I would appreciate your opinion.

Ms. Chauzat: Splitting is a big question in Europe. It can be performed at different times of the year. If you perform splitting during spring and early summer, it is usually to increase the number of colonies you have. We wanted to use these criteria to measure the extra work that a beekeeper has to do to maintain the number of colonies in his operation because of the losses that he experiences during the year. This is part of the extra measures that a beekeeper has to perform to maintain their livestock at a certain level.

Beekeepers complain about the longevity and the performance of the queens. Senior beekeepers will tell you that the queens used to last three to four years. Nowadays, if you talk to professional beekeepers at the top of the industry in France, they would tell you that some of them would change the queen every year because they ask the queen to lay a lot of eggs to produce bees because those bees are dying much more than they used to. The colony compensates for the bees dying in the field by the queen producing more workers and, therefore, the queen would be of good quality to lay eggs in a short time. This is the way they have to be renewed.

The issue of the quality of queens is being studied at the moment, but there is little knowledge of it. Some report that maybe the exposure to pesticides can also affect the longevity and fertility of queens as well as the fertility of males. The queens are fertilized by the drones, and if the sperm are not good quality, then the quality of the queens can be deprived.

Coming back to the splits, if you split the colony to increase the size of your livestock in spring, this is the usual manner. Good beekeeping practice recommends merging the colony before winter to make it very big to increase its chance to overwinter in good condition. The colony would be split the following spring to recover the number. That is advertised as good practice in some countries.

You really have to differentiate between good practices that are advertised in the country from the practices that are performed to maintain the livestock. We had this issue during the program that I talked about earlier to measure colony mortality in Europe. We want to measure the practices to have criteria to measure the amount of extra work that beekeepers have to perform to maintain their livestock. We were confronted with different appreciations in different countries in Europe as to the best practice for beekeeping and keeping bees alive during winter.

This is a complex question. I'm sure that it would be a complex answer if we compare what is done in Canada to what is done in France, for instance, because practices are different, weather is different, culture is different and habits are different. A quick answer is usually impossible. You have to go into the reason for the action to be able to compare two countries or two continents.

Senator Beyak: That was an excellent answer, very enlightening.

[Translation]

Senator Robichaud: Ms. Chauzat, is there a decline in the number of beekeepers in Europe, or in France particularly, or is the number steady?

I am asking you that question because one American witness told us that in the United States their number was declining and they were reaching a critical point, and were wondering whether there were enough bees to pollinate all of the crops.

Is this a phenomenon you have observed in Europe as well?

Ms. Chauzat: There are two parts to your question. First of all, the number of beekeepers, and secondly whether there are enough bees to pollinate.

The number of apiculturists in France and in Europe is on the decline for various reasons. One of the reasons to keep in mind is that the beekeepers are often elderly people.

Senator Robichaud: Like me.

Ms. Chauzat: When you look at the beekeepers' age curve, you see that these are elderly people who are winding down their activities, and will stop at a certain point. That is one recognized phenomenon. There is also the fact that beekeeping has changed. Regarding professional beekeeping, if you question the elders, the beekeepers of a certain age will tell you that their trade has completely changed, and that it now requires a lot more technology, more knowledge, more time, and much more involvement in their trade than in the past.

This means that professional apiculturists who get into the field must be very well trained and well informed. It is difficult for the average person to become a beekeeper: to have hives, put in the honey chambers, remove the honey chambers with honey in them, and run a simple operation like that. It just no longer works that way.

So, the beekeepers are also quitting because beekeeping is becoming increasingly difficult today. Why is the trade becoming increasingly difficult? Is it because there are pathogens now, such as the varroa mite, which was not there 30 years ago? Is it because the environment is changing and sometimes there is a lack of food, which means the hives have to be moved about, something that did not have to be done previously? Is it climate change, which has meant that the seasons are no longer what they were? There are a lot of factors that can explain that phenomenon.

Have we reached the critical point in the lack of pollination? Studies need to be done to determine that. For the moment, I have seen no studies reporting that we have reached the breaking point insofar as the lack of pollination by honeybees is concerned. I do not think that is the case for the moment, in Europe or elsewhere. There is certainly a decline in the number of bees, honeybees in particular, but this is also true of wild bees. A study in England showed that the decline in the various species of Bombus is very clear, both in England and in the Pyrenees, on the border between Spain and France. Certain things are very clear and well known. But for the moment, it has not been shown that there is a lack of pollinators, or that that is going to jeopardize pollination by wild species or cultivated ones.

Senator Robichaud: Thank you, madam. Since I am the oldest person on this committee, I think I am going to give up the idea of taking up beekeeping. Thank you.

Ms. Chauzat: However, what you could do is have three or four colonies at the back of your garden for your personal use. At the end of the day, you go and see the bees, because this is very relaxing, it is very Zen, it is good for your health.

The Chair: I have no doubt that with your skills in both of Canada's official languages, you would be quite at home here, in Canada, and also in Acadia.

And I am going to close with that, and say thank you very much; before we end the meeting, honourable senators, do we have a consensus?

[English]

Three witnesses have asked to come to our meeting on the last order of reference. They are the Egg Farmers of Canada, the Chicken Farmers of Canada and the Turkey Farmers of Canada. Is there a consensus that we have staff invite them on the trade agreement study? Yes?

Thank you.

(The committee adjourned.)