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.
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
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
Senator Robichaud: I am Fernand Robichaud from Saint-Louis-de-Kent,
Senator Merchant: I am Pana Merchant from the province of
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Senator Oh: Good morning, madam. Thank you for your excellent
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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?
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?
(The committee adjourned.)