THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE
OTTAWA, Tuesday, February 11, 2014
The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry met
this day at 5 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: Welcome to this meeting of the Standing Senate
Committee on Agriculture and Forestry.
We welcome our guests, who will be introduced shortly.
My name is Percy Mockler, senator from New Brunswick and chair of
the committee. I would ask all senators to introduce themselves, starting with
the deputy chair of the committee.
Senator Mercer: Terry Mercer, Nova Scotia.
Senator Merchant: Pana Merchant, Saskatchewan.
Senator Dagenais: Jean-Guy Dagenais, Quebec.
Senator Oh: Victor Oh, Ontario.
Jacques Demers, Quebec.
Senator Ogilvie: Kelvin Ogilvie, Nova Scotia.
The Chair: Honourable senators and witnesses, the
committee is continuing its study on the importance of bees and bee health in
the production of honey, food and seed in Canada. Our order of reference states:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry be
authorized to examine and report on the importance of bees and bee health in the
production of honey, food and seed in Canada. In particular, the committee shall
be authorized to examine this topic within the context of:
(a) the importance of bees in
pollination to produce food, especially fruit and vegetables, seed for crop
production and honey production in Canada;
(b) the current state of native
pollinators, leafcutter and honey bees in Canada;
(c) the factors affecting honey bee
health, including disease, parasites and pesticides in Canada and globally;
(d) strategies for governments,
producers and the industry to ensure bee health.
Honourable senators, our witnesses this evening are Kevin Nixon,
Alberta Delegate to the Canadian Honey Council, Alberta Beekeepers Commission;
Jake Berg, President, Saskatchewan Beekeepers Association; and Allan Campbell,
President, Manitoba Beekeepers’ Association. Thank you for accepting our
invitation to be here today to share your views, comments and recommendations
for this order of reference from the Senate of Canada.
I have been informed by the clerk that the first presenter will
be Manitoba, followed by Saskatchewan and Alberta. Mr. Campbell, please proceed
with your presentation.
Allan Campbell, President, Manitoba Beekeepers' Association:
Good evening, honourable senators, and thank you for the invitation to present
to you my witness testimony. I would like to thank the Canadian government for
sharing our concern for the honeybee industry and all of us involved in
pollinating Canada's crops and producing some of the finest honey in the world.
When I say that I represent the Manitoba Beekeepers’ Association,
I mean that I'm speaking on behalf of roughly 531 hard-working entrepreneurs
looking after 73,000 honeybee colonies. These colonies are being managed almost
exclusively for honey production. Our province provides a great opportunity for
large honey crops from over 3 million acres of canola being seeded here. However,
there is essentially no opportunity to generate income from pollination fees in
Before we started the cycle of high winter loss, we managed
85,000 colonies. Now, we can barely keep our number at 73,000 despite an
increase in honey prices, which in a healthy industry would drive colony numbers
up. For the economics majors in the room, since 2006 canola acres in the
province have increased 44 per cent and the bulk price of honey more than
doubled from about 90 cents per pound to over $2 per pound. Yet colony numbers
are down 15 per cent and we have lost nearly 100 beekeepers, down from 632. In
that same date range, Canada's honey exports are down 7.4 per cent, and the
value of bee imports into Canada has increased from $2 million annually to
nearly $7 million.
In the mid-1980s, prior to the Canadian border being closed to
U.S. package bees, Manitoba boasted 110,000 colonies and was a major contributor
to Canada being a top-10 honey producer in the world. Sadly, by 2007 we had
dropped off that list of top-10 producers and have never regained that ground.
Clearly there is a need for replacement bees from outside our current sources.
This last winter, we lost 46 per cent of our bees. We are in dire need in
Manitoba, and we asked the government for an immediate end to the embargo on
U.S. package bees. We are asking to be allowed to give the American package bee
industry the chance to be measured against a health standard equal to the health
level of the Canadian bee industry.
The CFIA has protocols in place that allow queens in from the U.S,
and that could be followed for package bees as well. The MBA has developed, with
our provincial apiarist and Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development,
a white paper document that makes suggestions for health protocols that would
mitigate all health risks down to negligible. I have included copies for further
The beekeepers in Manitoba have clearly come to the conclusion
that the risks we face today are far greater than any risk posed by importing
bees that are held to our high standard. In Canada, we simply do not have the
climate to produce enough new bees early enough in the year. Replacement hives
are needed in April to give them time to grow strong for our nectar flow. There
is no doubt that Canadian bee breeders are doing a fine job of raising excellent
stock for queen bees and nucleus colonies but, sadly, we don't have the same
warm winters that breeders in California or Georgia or Hawaii have.
You have heard testimony already that some provinces could gear
up production to supply many thousands of nuc colonies or 100,000
Canadian queens. The numbers that they say they can provide are still only half
of what we are importing today. Even the beekeepers who are valiantly trying to
supply Canadians with nucs and queens are losing record numbers of bees.
When they can supply only half of the demand and are at risk of major losses,
what happens to the rest of the industry if they have a catastrophic loss? It
puts the whole supply chain at risk.
Also, it is of little comfort when they cannot be supplied at a
time of year to do us much good. You can buy nucs in the summer and overwinter
them to produce a crop the next year, they'll tell you, but does it really seem
feasible to pay in June for colonies that you almost certainly lose 30 per cent
of in January to hope to start to turn a profit in July of the following year?
Now let us take a moment to look at the health risks involved in
our current practices. Bacterial and fungal disease, varroa mite and beekeeper-applied
acaricides are among the biggest health risks we face today. By culling out
the 30 per cent of beehives that we are losing every year anyway and not putting
the resources and money into unsuccessfully wintering those, we can start to use
early packages as an integrated approach to pest management.
For example, in agriculture it's widely accepted that it is
unsustainable to seed the same crop year after year in the same field, using the
same chemicals year after year. In addition to cropping rotation, farmers are
able to give the land a break from use, and our cold Canadian winters freeze out
Canadian beekeepers do not currently have that choice. We are
expected to maintain our numbers by keeping these beehives fully stocked year
round, without a chance to place the equipment into cold storage, thereby
breaking the pest cycle. With these hives in use by bees 365 days a year, they
are also housing Nosema spores, small hive beetle and varroa mites year round.
How do you keep bees while killing mites? The current practice is
through ever-increasing use of chemical miticides applied multiple times
per year to bees on combs which are now polluted with pesticide. If, instead, we
were bringing in package bees that were treated for mites chemically before they
were in our equipment, we would cut chemical residues from our hives, at the
same time eliminating the risk of our miticide acting in synergy with
neonicotinoids and other ag pesticides and overdosing our bees.
Once you consider that these bees are starting in our hives with
negligible mite levels, these hives would not likely require a miticide
application until the following year, saving an entire year's worth of
pesticides and leaving dollars in the beekeepers' pockets. As well, treatment
for Nosema and foulbrood disease would be unnecessary.
Good, clean brood comb that is free of contaminants and
pesticides is the second most important asset that a beekeeper has, next to his
bees. But with our current unsustainable practices, we can't have both. We must
get off the chemical treadmill. I have brought you further research that
demonstrates a clear model of how you can keep bees healthy and treatment free
using package bees.
How does CFIA stand behind their most recent risk assessment of
U.S. packages and claim that it is in the interest of Canadian bee health? The
border was closed to keep out tracheal mites and again upheld in the face of
varroa mites entering in the U.S. In the years since the embargo, Canada has
still been vulnerable to tracheal mites, then varroa mites. Our mite populations
also built resistance to the same chemicals as in the U.S. Treatment-resistant
AFB is now endemic in parts of Canada. Small hive beetle is also now entering
How can this be? Our border is closed. The reason that a closed
border never works is that there is no geographical or physical barrier. We may
be closing the door to beekeepers, but not to bees and pests that have wings, or
to disease that can be spread in the air or on wing.
In North Dakota there are hundreds of thousands of bee colonies
moved into the state by beekeepers from all over the U.S. They are there to
build colonies and give them a break from the rigours of pollination and gain
nutrition from abundant honey crops.
That is hundreds of thousands of hives that are right up against
our border, as shown on this map that I've provided, with some locations that
may even be chosen because the U.S. beekeeper can see that even Manitoba canola
fields are within foraging distance for his bees.
In closing, honourable senators, I would ask that you consider my
testimony on behalf of all beekeepers in Manitoba and those who share our
feelings across Canada, and do your part to help us break this cycle and emerge
a healthier, wealthier and wiser industry.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Campbell.
Now we will hear from Jake Berg, President of Saskatchewan
Jake Berg, President, Saskatchewan Beekeepers Association:
I am here to represent Saskatchewan's view on bee health. I would like to thank
the chair and honourable senators for the invitation to address this committee
on honeybee health issues in Canada.
This is a very important issue to beekeepers and many other
agricultural industries. Bee health is critical to the survival of beekeepers,
and much of agriculture is dependent on the extra value created by pollination
as provided by bees.
Saskatchewan is supportive of ensuring the sustainability of the
industry. We have several young beekeepers in Saskatchewan who are interested in
keeping bees for the long term and intend to raise their families using the
income from keeping bees.
While there are numerous potential problems faced by honeybees,
two are developing into the most important issues: disease control and pesticide
poisoning. Both cause large risks to honeybees, beekeepers and the rest of
The largest threat to beekeeping in Saskatchewan is honeybee
diseases. Most of the large mortalities seen in the province can be traced back
to disease problems that have gotten out of control.
The primary culprit affecting beekeepers is the varroa mite. This
mite is a continuous problem that we have difficulty dealing with. Varroa have
developed resistance to two of the best three control options we have of
synthetic mite-control products. There is resistance to Apistan and
CheckMite+. Only Apivar is still working for us. We are in desperate
need to protect this control option by not importing mites that are resistant to
Apivar, or amitraz, by obtaining more options for control so we can
practise a rotation to reduce resistance buildup.
Numerous places around the world have bees available for purchase,
but we must be careful not to import new problems to Canada and further threaten
beekeeping in Canada. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has been good in terms
of objectively evaluating sources of bees for threats to the Canadian beekeeping
Most beekeepers realize that pesticides are an important tool to
ensure profitability in agriculture. Just as beekeepers must use products to
control varroa, farmers must be able to control the pests in their fields. While
neonicotinoids so far do not appear to have caused a problem in Saskatchewan, we
realize that other areas with more corn and agriculture have reported problems.
In Saskatchewan we see problems with foliar-sprayed insecticides,
primarily organophosphates and carbamates. Pesticide damage to
bees occurs with increased spraying for crop pests.
In 2012, beekeepers in Saskatchewan experienced higher than
normal damages associated with Bertha Armyworm control on canola. As a
response, the Saskatchewan Beekeepers Association, in cooperation with the
Saskatchewan Aerial Applicators Association, Saskatchewan Agriculture, crop-protection
companies such as Bayer CropScience and Dow AgroSciences worked
collaboratively to develop a communication tool between beekeepers and pesticide
We are anticipating having DriftWatch ready for use for
the 2014 field season. This will help to identify areas that need special care
to avoid bee damage, and eventually other sensitive crops. The development of
this project in Saskatchewan has been followed by other provinces, and the
Canadian Honey Council is currently looking into following this collaborative
approach for the rest of Canada. We do not expect that implementing this program
will resolve all the pesticide incidences, but we hope it is a step in the right
Beekeeping is an important part of the agriculture system. Not
only do bees produce honey, but they are responsible for a great value to many
other agriculture producers from pollination. A collaborative approach with all
players to deal with bee health is important because everyone has a stake in the
value of honeybees.
The Chair: Thank you.
Now we will hear from Mr. Kevin Nixon, who is Alberta Delegate to
the Canada Honey Council.
Kevin Nixon, Alberta Delegate to Canadian Honey Council,
Alberta Beekeepers Commission: Thank you, Mr. Chair and honourable members
of the committee, for this opportunity to brief you today. I have been sitting
on the board of the Alberta Beekeepers Commission for many years, and I'm
currently on my second term with the Canadian Honey Council as well.
Alberta currently has approximately 280,000 hives in the province
and about 90 per cent of those hives are run by commercial beekeepers, people
who make their living strictly from keeping those bees. There are about 120
commercial beekeepers in Alberta running a very large number of bees.
I'll try to cover the main topic areas and I believe you all have
outlines of the briefing with you.
You had the pleasure of having Dr. Medhat Nasr with you
last week, who is our provincial apiculturist, so some of this may be repetitive,
but the needs and demands for bees are steadily increasing. Annually, about
75,000 hives are rented out to large seed producers in Alberta to produce hybrid
canola seed. The seed harvested from this crop is used the following year to
plant commercial canola all across Canada.
A large number of beehives also from Alberta, mainly from the
Peace region, are moved to British Columbia to improve their odds for winter
survival. When they are out there, they are often rented for pollination
services as well for blueberries, apples, pears and other fruits and vegetable
Nationally, there are a lot of challenges but there are also
opportunities, and some of these opportunities seem to be coming in the very
near future. There is research under way looking at advantages of having
honeybees present on commercial canola. This is a crop that does not
traditionally require pollination, but there seems to be an indication that
there may be a yield increase by having bees present. Once this research is done
and is able to show this is the case, the opportunities for beekeepers,
especially on the Prairies, could be tremendous.
The second opportunity is the increase of blueberry production
taking place on both the East and West Coasts. We have recently heard of large
amounts of land in the Maritimes specifically being placed into blueberry
production. This is a crop that requires honeybees for pollination. Our industry
is hearing that there is a need for 70,000 additional beehives in the next five
to ten years, and this may be a conservative number. How do we as an industry
meet this demand?
As there was an updated risk assessment last November on
accessing bees from the U.S., I've included the response from the Alberta
Beekeepers along with this briefing. We believe there are many holes in the
document, and that with clearly written protocols, bulk bees from the U.S. could
provide Canadian beekeepers with an attractive option for bee replacement.
Currently, we have been getting bees from New Zealand and Australia, and you can
have too many eggs in one basket. Accessing bees from the U.S. may not be a fix,
but it may create another option for beekeepers. We heard from Mr. Campbell from
Manitoba who had a fairly extensive in-depth look at the benefits it may give
The current state of honeybees: Last year was a rough year almost
everywhere in the country, as a matter of fact. The challenges seem to be mostly
weather-related. Overall, the provinces did not recover the numbers of hives
registered with Alberta Agriculture.
I do need to make a correction here from the briefing. At the
time I wrote this I had old information. I did talk to Dr. Nasr and he presented
the updated information to you. We did achieve that 280,000 hive level again, so
my number here is showing incorrectly. Sorry about that.
In 2013, honey production was still down roughly 30 per cent
across the province. Even though those hives recovered with that loss of 30 per
cent, which was the average winter loss in the province, when we have to recover
those numbers, you sacrifice on your production side. If we have to make splits
or nucs, we're stealing bees from a mother hive and transferring them into
equipment. We buy queens and place a queen with those bees, so we are weakening
one hive to start another. There is a sacrifice. You are sacrificing some
production. We are running a business and we have to make sure we can justify
what we are doing and that it's manageable. In this case, having access to
package bees may decrease that need for weakening one to recover.
Factors affecting bee health: In Alberta we do not seem to have
many agro pesticide incidents. There have been a couple of isolated incidents,
but our communication and education program, with aerial applicators
specifically, seems to have been effective. We do not see the neonicotinoid
incidents other regions have seen even though the same products are being
used on canola, potatoes and corn in Alberta.
Our biggest health issues at this time seem to be the varroa mite
and the viruses it can transmit, and a parasitic infection called Nosema.
These have been long-term issues and continue to be. It seems we get a product
in use for varroa for five to seven years and then the mite develops resistance.
Unlike other sectors, the beekeepers don't have a shelf with future products
sitting there waiting for us. We could have and should have a practical IPM
rotation of miticides, but through lack of leadership have failed to do so.
There is some great hope for the possible use of RNAi technology coming,
but it will require some serious investment and research.
Another important factor is bee nutrition. Agriculture has
changed across the country in plants as well as management practices. Due to
this, many previous sources of pollinator habitat have been removed or killed
off. Farmers grow right to the edge of fields and are taking out rows of hedges
and wind breaks to increase production. How much land out there is owned by the
Crown and how much is managed by municipalities and industrial companies? If all
that land had alfalfa, sweet clover, alsike clover, Dutch clover and other
plants of this type, it could go a long way in providing a multi-floral diet
rather than mono-floral diet. When we are all well-nourished, we are
healthier. It's the same for the bees.
Strategies for stakeholders to ensure bee health in the future:
Producers need to continue being educated on identification and surveillance
procedures for all pests and diseases, adoption of biosecurity measures to help
identify areas of risks, and we as producers need to support research. In
Alberta, Dr. Nasr has done a really good job of working with our industry in
surveillance and extension programs, and there has been a significant,
noticeable betterment to the industry for that.
As an industry, over the past couple of years relationships
between producers and the ag industry as a whole have improved. We have worked
with CropLife Canada as well as some of their member organizations in
many aspects. This must continue.
We also need to continue dialogue with the PMRA and educate the
powers that be on how pesticides may cause risks to pollinators. We know
insecticides will kill insects, but it is the risk of exposure. We need to talk
between industries to make sure there are no gaps as to how that exposure can
The industry must also work with government at all levels to
encourage pollinator habitat, reduce roadside spraying and mowing, plant more
bee-friendly plants on public lands and reserve areas, perhaps working with the
oil and gas sector to do the same in land reclamations and that type of
The industry needs support from government in research and
developing new and novel treatments specifically for varroa and Nosema control.
We need the government, CFIA, to realize regions within Canada are different and
regions within Canada to access package bees specifically from the U.S. so we
have replacement stock to rebuild our beehives. Of course, this would be under
protocols to ensure we are importing healthy bees. We need continued support
from PMRA to ensure current and new agro pesticides registered for use are safe
for honeybees and have proper application procedures. Also with regard to the
PMRA, we need to expedite the registration process once a new product for hive
treatment becomes available so the producers can access it in a timely manner.
Finally, support the industry by coming up with some sort of
strategy to encourage landowners, farmers, provincial and municipal governments
to seed pollinator-friendly habitat.
Thank you, chair.
The Chair: Thank
you, Mr. Nixon.
Thank you, gentlemen, for being here. It has been very informative. As we go
along, we continue to learn more and more about bees, and we also continue to
hear how serious the problem is coast to coast.
Mr. Nixon, in your presentation, you said we
could have and should have a practical IPM rotation of miticides but, through
lack of leadership, have failed to do so. Lack of leadership by whom?
Mr. Nixon: I
think we're all accountable to some extent. There was a lack on our part as
producers to push for this, possibly to support it in some way or another. I
think there is also some onus on our scientists within Canada, the bee experts
we are working with. This varroa problem has been ongoing since its arrival. We
have developed resistance from two other products in the last 12 years, and we
are currently using another one. It seems like we use it until it runs out and
then we sit there with our arms up, “What's next?” Then we are in a panic
finding another product and getting emergency use registration. Amitraz showed
up. By the time it finally got emergency use registration, it was October. The
damage is done. Ideally, treatments need to be in earlier than that.
We can use some soft chemicals: formic acid,
oxalic acid, along with these other harder chemicals. We could develop some sort
of rotation. There are not a whole lot of other chemicals out there, but there
are a few out there that we should try and access.
We need to keep looking. RNAi does look very
hopeful for the future, but we're still a few years away from seeing it.
We have heard from beekeepers in Atlantic Canada about how helpful it would be
if the border were open so they could winter their bees in the United States.
For example, my province is a big blueberry producer, and we could have our
hives taken to Florida for the winter, working down there obviously. Then,
perhaps as the weather warmed up, they could be moving up and giving a second
source of income to beekeepers. Mind you, there is obviously a cost to that kind
of industry. Has there been talk in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta about
that? If the borders were open, you could winter your hives south of the border.
That is for any one of you. It wasn't directed
to just Mr. Nixon.
Mr. Campbell: I
can try to address that. I know that we're actually dealing with two separate
issues when we talk about bees coming in from the United States and the border
being open to the movement of beehives.
The embargo I referred to on bees was created in
1986 or 1987. When you are talking about bees moving within the hive, back and
forth across the border, that has been illegal since 1927, I believe. That was
to stop the spread of American foulbrood, which is a disease spread “on comb.”
In Manitoba, at least, that's where we believe more risk lies, with chemicals
and diseases being spread within the hive on the comb.
But the Americans do move their bees around themselves, from north to south.
Bees active in Maine would be active in Florida in the wintertime, as bees in
Washington State would be active in California.
Mr. Nixon: We
have talked about this at many tables in Alberta. Alberta's perspective is that
we are not in favour of seeing bee movement on comb. It does open up a whole new
can of worms. When bees are contained in a package bee situation, they are being
shipped in a 12 inch by 10 inch by 6 inch wide carton. There are two or three
pounds of bees in there. That is an ideal place to treat bees for any pest or
disease. The varroa mite likes to reproduce in capped brood at the larva pupa
stage in the comb. When you put the bees in a package, there is no comb, no wax,
no larva and no brood — just bees. You are able to hit anything that's exposed,
and everything is exposed in a package. When you start talking about movement of
hives, that changes the whole risk level.
Also, being in the lovely Canadian climate we
are I think is actually a blessing. Winter is a great break for the bees. The
hive shuts down. It goes broodless. You are able to use treatments effectively.
In the U.S., when its year-round beekeeping, those bees get moved around on a
truck an awful lot, and there is no break for those bees. To keep bees healthy,
winter is not a bad thing.
Mr. Berg: We have
talked a lot in Saskatchewan about why we would like to have the border stay
closed. We do worry a lot about the U.S.'s constant bee culture where they do
work their bees year round. Those diseases build up year after year and they're
unable to control them down there. We feel that the bee health in Canada is a
lot higher than the bee health level in the U.S. If the border was open, even to
packages, we'd be susceptible to a lower standard of bee health just by bringing
those packages in.
Thank you very much for being here. I'm from Manitoba, so I'm glad to see the
West essentially, the Prairies, being represented.
Senator Mercer asked about the issue in terms of
imports. He also mentioned — and Mr. Nixon, you commented on it — an IPM
program, an integrated pest management program. It's concerned me as I have
heard from witnesses that these miticides get registered and then they develop
resistance. The move is on then to find a replacement. It makes sense that
clearly we should be looking for replacements, for an integrated plan. Who
should be responsible for developing an integrated pest management plan?
Mr. Nixon: Are
you asking me?
Each of you. I'm curious.
Mr. Nixon: I'll
try to provide a bit of an answer.
We, as industry, need to embrace taking that
step. I think the best way I can see it coming is from the Canadian Association
of Professional Apiculturists. You heard from Dr. Nasr last week, who
represented that organization. Essentially, all provincial apiculturists are
part of that organization, and they are what academia draws upon. They are the
experts in the country on bees. From there, it should come down to producers as
to what a program should and would look like.
Senator Buth: My
background is agriculture, so I have been involved in some of the programs like
the minor use program that we have had in the crops area. Do you know if that
minor use program has been available for bee products? You are not a large
enough industry to attract the dollars, so I'm wondering how you get industry
involved in providing solutions for you.
Mr. Campbell: That is a tough question.
Senator Buth: I know it's a tough question.
Mr. Berg: We are a small industry.
Mr. Nixon: If I could, I brought a very good resource with
me. Our chairman of the Alberta Beekeepers Commission, Grant Hicks, is here, and
he has some experience with that. Maybe he could answer that for you.
The Chair: Absolutely. Would you come to the table, please?
Mr. President, would you please answer the question?
Grant Hicks, President, Alberta Beekeepers Commission: I
will do my best. I was involved when CheckMite+ — coumaphos — was
registered and our minor use specialist with Alberta Agriculture did much of the
legwork in conjunction with the Canadian Association of Professional
Apiculturists. We are aware that the minor use avenue is probably the area that
we need to follow.
To add to that, to use one miticide endlessly until it
develops resistance is not a professional way of approaching this problem. As
Kevin suggested, there are several other products that could be used, and their
efficacy is in the 95 per cent range, which is what we need. We need to
implement. That's where we run out of expertise; how does that rotational
process work? With a product that's fully registered, how do you get that
chemical company to say, “We are not going to sell that for two or three years”?
Those are the kinds of issues that probably are beyond our scope as farm boys.
Senator Buth: Mr. Campbell, Mr. Berg, did you want to
comment on this? Who is responsible for an IPM program, and how do we make sure
we have the best plan in place?
Mr. Campbell: I think we all need to take responsibility
for our own IPM programs. When it comes right down to it, no other professional
can tell you, without coming and visiting your farm, of course, and looking
inside your hives, what's going on in your hives and what the best choice is for
you. When it comes to soft chemicals like formic acid and oxalic acid,
they can be very weather dependent; if you don't have the right temperature
range, that's probably the biggest part. You can have a lot poorer results from
That is definitely going to come into play as well, or how much
brood is in the hive at the time, those sorts of things.
Mr. Berg: I believe we all are responsible for
implementing an IPM program. More research needs to be done to help register
these other types of miticides that are available. The more research dollars we
can put into research, the quicker we can hopefully get some of those other
chemicals or products available in Canada.
Senator Buth: I have a whole set of questions in terms of
funding and research. I'll leave those to the second round. Could I just get one
question in for Mr. Campbell?
The Chair: Absolutely, Senator Buth.
Senator Buth: Mr. Berg and Mr. Nixon commented in terms of
working with industry and working together on some different programs, but I
didn't see that was in your comments. Could you comment on the type of working
relationships you have with other groups within Manitoba and with industry?
Mr. Campbell: We have actually a pretty good way of
getting on with other groups in Manitoba. We are a member of Keystone
Agricultural Producers. We believe in their work a lot. We often sit with them
and work towards solutions on things. We have good relationships with the canola
growers and corn growers also in Manitoba.
Senator Buth: What about aerial applicators; do you have a
working relationship with them?
Mr. Campbell: Yes, we have a good working relationship
with them and we are also working toward getting mapping software in place to
ensure bee safety and making sure they know where those hives are.
Senator Merchant: With the research that is going on, I'm
wondering how you communicate the research from the researchers to the
beekeepers. I noticed in the materials that in Saskatchewan you have an equal
number of hobby beekeepers. How do you communicate the information? How does
everybody know the best and the latest in the research?
Mr. Campbell: In our own province, we host a field day
every summer and events such as those to try to get Manitoba beekeepers together.
There are also other associations in our province that are quite active. There
is the Red River Apiarists' Association as well as the Brandon
Area Beekeepers Association. We find there is good dissemination of information.
Senator Merchant: Do you have newsletters? Do you put out
Mr. Campbell: Yes, we've got quarterly newsletters. We
maintain a website at manitobabee.org. We also have a convention and
symposium at the end of February.
Mr. Berg: In Saskatchewan we have a field day once every
June. We have a convention in late November, early December, and an annual
general meeting at the end of February. That does help quite a bit with
About three years ago now we started a technical adaptation team,
which is a research team run by the beekeeping association. We look for grants
that are available through different granting agencies in the country. Those
researchers do their granting research, but also they do other beginner
beekeeping courses. They did a queen rearing course last year. That helps to get
out the information to the smaller hobby-type beekeeper.
Senator Merchant: I'm also trying to understand the
importance of bees in the pollination of crops. We have seen in the past year or
the last few years that we have bumper crops. We have also had very cold winters,
which are detrimental to the survival of bees. Are there studies that can
correlate the importance of bees to crop pollination?
I think, Mr. Nixon, you made a reference to a special kind of
canola seed. Could you elaborate on that for us?
Mr. Nixon: Southern Alberta is where the hybrid canola
seed production takes place, and they must have bees present to get a crop, for
producing that specific crop. That's the parent seed, if you will, to what would
be seeded the following year.
They often use a blend of leafcutters and honeybees. The two bees
work at different temperatures, so it is a way of spreading out the risk a
little bit, depending on what the season is like.
I'm sure there would be people smarter than me who could go
further with that, but the main companies that we would work directly for are
Bayer CropScience, Dow, Pioneer Dupont and Monsanto. There is also
another private company out of southern Alberta that contracts acres as well.
In blueberry pollination, and maybe you've already heard
testimony from blueberry producers, with the increased level of bees present
they are finding an increase in yields. They have been getting crops and they
have been getting good crops, but maybe there is an opportunity to be getting
even better crops. That's the indication we have had commercial canola. It's
very preliminary. There is definitely more work being done on it. I believe
you're hearing from the canola council later.
Senator Oh: Thank you, gentlemen.
We have so many beehives so close to our border. Do Americans not
have the same problems with the varroa mite that we have in Canada?
Mr. Campbell: Absolutely.
Senator Oh: How do they solve their problem, while we are
having difficulty here?
Mr. Campbell: They seem to be dealing with it the same way
we are. They just work hard at it. They're making their splits. They also have
economic factors too, such as almond pollination, which really drives the
industry and gets you back in the game if you have suffered severe losses. There
is a chance to go out and buy more bees because you're making money at what
Senator Oh: How serious is their problem compared to ours
Mr. Campbell: It's our feeling that we are facing a lot of
the exact same issues. They keep coming back every year. This year there are
more hives than needed for almond pollination. Once they are done in February
and those hives come out of pollination, you will see hives exploding because
they're so populous. It would be a very easy time to shake packages for the
Mr. Berg: Yes, they have the same problems as we have here.
Some of their problems are a little more advanced than ours with the varroa
mite. It's our thought that they're a little bit more along the way with
Apivar, or amitraz in the States. They are about four to five years
farther done the road on getting resistance there. They need to treat up to four
times a year but they get only 50 per cent efficacy. We use it only once a year
in Saskatchewan and get about a 95 per cent kill.
Mr. Nixon: I'm going to debate a couple of things. They
definitely have the same issues. We hear a lot in the media, and what do the
media pick up on? A lot of worst-case scenarios. There are good stories in the
States as well. There are times in the year when you could probably measure the
health of our bees in Canada and they would probably be identical to the health
of the bees in the U.S. We haven't done that. If you don't look, you won't find
it. It's a great rule to live by. In the States, there are times in the year
when those bees are probably at their highest stress point and may show some bad
I know beekeepers in the States who have started wintering their
bees in potato sheds in the northwest. They're breaking that brood cycle, just
like our winter in Canada. They're shutting the bees down and pulling them out
at the end of January. They give them a month to build up, and then they go to
almonds — right now, as we speak. There are management techniques that
beekeepers are learning and practising down there to have good, healthy bees.
My colleague commented on the efficacy of amitraz in the U.S. We
heard a number thrown around about that efficacy rate. We actually did some
calling to the U.S. and I had the privilege of being in Baton Rouge, Louisiana,
a few weeks ago at the American Beekeepers Conference. That number is not the
true number of efficacy. They're still showing good efficacy on amitraz. It was
done by the USDA Beltsville lab. They're running a national surveillance project
in the U.S. called Project Apis mellifera. They're keeping an eye
and monitoring disease levels. There are regions where things are iffy at times,
but there are some good news stories out there as well.
Senator Tardif: I would like to come back to a point
raised earlier. Mr. Campbell, you made an eloquent plea to us to ask the
government for an immediate end to the embargo on U.S. package bees. Mr. Berg,
you indicated that from Saskatchewan's perspective we need to be careful with
the sources of bees that Canada allows for importation. Mr. Nixon, I'm not sure
what Alberta's position is on the importation of bees, although you mentioned
that you didn't like it when it wasn't on the comb, if that's correct. Are the
conditions so different in the three Prairie provinces that you take different
stands on that issue? Could you clarify that for me?
Mr. Campbell: I could start by saying that there are some
pretty serious differences in geography.
Senator Tardif: Even on the Prairies?
Mr. Campbell: Even on the Prairies, yes.
In Manitoba, a lot of beekeeping takes place in the southern part
of the province. As that map shows you, we are right up against the U.S. border,
and those American bees are right up against the Canadian border. There is no
getting away from that.
In Saskatchewan, I believe it's a completely different story as
they're a lot farther away from the border; so maybe it is not an issue for them.
Senator Tardif: You would ask that U.S. bees be allowed
Mr. Berg, what are you saying?
Mr. Berg: We would ask that U.S. bees not be allowed in.
It is true in Saskatchewan that the geography is a little different. The
majority of our bees are farther north and away from the border, so we don't
have the same border pressure that maybe Manitoba faces. Our worry is that if we
allow those bees in, we will get amitraz-resistant varroa mites, where we don't
have any of those mites in our province yet.
Mr. Nixon: Alberta supports access to U.S. package bees.
We believe in science-based decisions in neonics as well as in importing stock.
We believe that through good protocols, clean and healthy bees can be accessed
from the U.S.
We are not asking for a wide-open border. We currently import
queen stock from the U.S. These are the same producers that would supply package
bees. Currently, Canada is importing around 40,000 packages a year from New
Zealand and Australia. We're going halfway around the world to import a stock
from a place that is in the opposite season. They shake out their boxes and send
us their bees, but they are not necessarily in the greatest health when they
It is a fact that for the bees we would access in the U.S., only
a handful of suppliers in northern California meet the protocol conditions to
ship queens to Canada. Those are the same suppliers that would be shipping
worker bees. Those bees are actually the daughters, in most cases, of the stock
that they're already shipping us.
Economic issues are playing into this. We have heard since 1988
that areas of the country can supply us with queens and bees. You heard
testimony last week —
Senator Tardif: From B.C. as a matter of fact.
Mr. Nixon: — that said they could gear up to meet the
queen needs. It was realized that their queen production has dropped in the past
six or seven years.
If a person is able to produce a good high-quality stock, the
marketplace will recognize it and it will get bought. We have been importing
queen stock from California and Hawaii. It is some of the best stock we've ever
seen. It's wintering well, producing crops and pollinating.
The U.S. will not fix beekeeping. We will get resistance either
way. With CheckMite+, the product before amitraz, we had resistance
within months of when the U.S. had resistance. It doesn't buy us that much time.
A closed border is really only closing opportunities for beekeepers. We have all
our eggs in two baskets: Australia and New Zealand.
I noticed that there were many questions asked last week of Dr.
Nasr by three senators. How did Alberta grow its industry? Amitraz
was part of that. We needed varroa control. But a big driver in Alberta that
helped us grow from 190,000 to 280,000 colonies was beekeepers spending hundreds
of thousands of dollars — business people, farmers — on packages, on making
nucs, splitting bees, investing money in their operations. That is how the
industry was driven forward.
The other key driver was pollination. Pollination uses
approximately 80,000 hives. What was the growth in Alberta? Ninety thousand
hives. There is a strong correlation there that pollination was a driver in the
industry. We see that opportunity elsewhere. How are we going to meet those
Senator Tardif: Could I follow up on something you said,
Mr. Nixon? You have spoken a lot about bee management practices, and very good
bee management practices. Are there national standards? If not, do you feel
there should be national standards? There seems to be a lot of variation from
province to province. I understand that it is very different and the geography
is very different from one region to the other, but how do you feel about that
and how do you see that?
Mr. Nixon: I think it would be very difficult to have a
national standard. The differences within our own provinces can be drastic. The
overall system of managing a hive can be very similar. You come out of winter
and spring, and you build up, replace and recover your numbers. You build up the
hive for maximum population for either honey production or pollination. The
summer is production months, and then fall is for winter preparations, where you
are medicating and feeding. Those management-type systems are pretty well the
same across the country and I believe are being practised across the country.
As far as treatments being used, different treatments react
differently in different temperatures. Different humidity can make a difference.
For example, using formic acid to control mites, humidity can play into that.
Regional factors could play a role, and so I think a national
standard in that case would be difficult.
Mr. Berg: I tend to agree with Mr. Nixon that a national
standard would be very hard to come to. Bees just aren't the same in Alberta as
they are in Saskatchewan and Manitoba at the same time of year, or with just a
little bit different managing procedures. Some of the other chemicals at the
national centre may come into effect. They are totally dependent on temperature
and humidity, so a national standard would be very difficult to come to.
Mr. Campbell: Oftentimes, coming from Manitoba, we will
hear that other beekeepers in British Columbia, or maybe in the east, are
working bees in temperatures where Manitoba's temperatures are still in the
minus 30s, and these other provinces are out working already. It is very
One of the reasons I think Manitoba has had such a hard time
rebuilding is because our season is so extremely short. Normally, on our own
farm, we'd be back working with hives by April 12. This year it was May before
we got a start, and even at that we were digging our way in through the
Senator Tardif: It gets tough on the Prairies. The weather
Senator Dagenais: My question is for Mr. Nixon. You said
that winter was a beneficial season for bee health because bees could then rest.
Certain witnesses told us that it was perhaps preferable to send the bees to
Florida. I will ask you the same question I asked others before you: what do you
think of late or early springs? Could they negatively affect bee health?
Mr. Nixon: In some ways, I would love to go to Florida too.
Senator Dagenais: Same thing for all the snowbirds.
Mr. Nixon: I do believe that the winter gives the hive a
chance to shut down. Winter can be hard on the bees; no doubt about it —
indirectly, I should add. It seems that the colder the winter, the more feed is
consumed, but it also depends how they were in the fall. If a hive has a high
mite load in September and October and a beekeeper doesn't get his treatment in
fast enough or on time, the bees that are hatching at that time could come out
with deformed wings or viruses that could suppress that hive. Then the hive has
a suppressed immune system for the winter months and will slowly dwindle away.
One example of how winter can be hard on them is that last year
we got into our hives the first week of March in Alberta. I'm just north of
Calgary. The bees looked really good; they looked really nice, 10 per cent or
less dead. I thought things could be good; we'll make some extra splits, maybe
increase the numbers a little bit. Over the next six weeks we lost an additional
20 per cent. The hives that were looking so nice in March kept dwindling and
dwindling, just because of the weather.
Spring is vital to a beehive. We were supplement feeding them —
protein patties, liquid sugar — everything we'd do any other year. But it was so
cold that the bees wouldn't break the cluster to take the feed. The protein
supplement stimulates the queen to lay eggs. They weren't consuming that. The
queen wasn't laying eggs. The adult bees that would normally have to last four
or five months to get through winter had to last six, and those extra four or
six weeks made a world of difference. In that way, spring can be hard on them.
Senator Robichaud: I was reading the letter that the
Alberta Beekeepers Commission sent to the CFIA about their risk analysis of
importing package bees. Somehow you don't seem to agree with Mr. Berg who says
he doesn't want anything to do with package bees, and you say we could make use
of package bees.
What you say is that their risk analysis seems to run contrary to
science about the bees. I think it's worth reading, because there are quite a
few pages in there where you're not satisfied with the way they are looking at
it. Have you received any answer from CFIA?
Mr. Nixon: No, we've had no response as of yet.
Senator Robichaud: When was that sent?
Mr. Nixon: I believe the comment period closed late
Senator Robichaud: Mr. Chair, this is something that came
to us from the beekeepers. I think there is a lot of information in there that
we should be concerned with, whereby they are basing their recommendation not to
import package bees on information that is not scientifically correct. Am I
saying it the right way?
Mr. Campbell: We agree with Alberta's position that a lot
of things in the risk assessment were not at all science based. In fact, there
was an entire section where they talked about assumptions they had made, and
assumption has no place in science, as far as I'm concerned.
Senator Robichaud: There is also information in there
about the movement across states. They were saying there was no control over the
movement state to state; and you say there is, from what you know?
Mr. Campbell: Yes, there are county inspectors and also
state inspection for hives going across the country. There are stations where
they inspect for fire ants and you have to wash pallets in order to move hives
into or out of the province. There were two or three places in the risk
assessment where they seem to be saying that there was no national bee health
survey and once you get about two thirds of the way through it, they themselves
refer to that survey in the United States.
Senator Robichaud: There is contradiction within their own
Mr. Campbell: There is.
Senator Robichaud: Should we call them as a witness?
The Chair: Mr. Nixon, do you have any comments on the
question and what was brought forward by Senator Robichaud?
Mr. Nixon: No. What Mr. Campbell said is correct. There is
interstate movement protection, and APHIS is the regulatory body in the
U.S. that currently conducts inspections for queen exportation. We have the same
thing in Alberta. If we are moving interprovincially, we require information
from the provincial apiculturists.
Mr. Hicks: Just to clarify, in the Alberta response to the
risk assessment, we surveyed American scientists and American professionals. Our
comments are not developed in a coffee shop in some small town in Alberta. That
information is from authoritative figures, and after CFIA responds, we intend to
address this with more specifics. We certainly have an interest in this and we
will follow up on it as well.
Senator Robichaud: This might change the recommendation to
import package bees or not, would it? Depending on the findings?
Mr. Campbell: Yes.
Senator Robichaud: But you wouldn't agree?
Mr. Berg: In Saskatchewan we are very pleased with the
outcome of the risk assessment. We felt it was the right outcome. There is a
significant risk to Canadian beekeeping with opening that border.
Senator Ogilvie: So far, this has been an exceedingly
interesting and important meeting to hear very real observations and to
recognize what should be obvious but apparently isn't in the differences in a
major agricultural area, in this case dealing with insects in differences of
terrain, geography climate, et cetera. My question is to give perspective with
regard to the total terrain.
Taking the last five years in the three Prairie provinces, has
there been any major increase in the amount of cultivated land? That is my first
question and I have a brief second question.
Mr. Berg: I would say no.
Mr. Nixon: In Alberta, no, to my knowledge there has been
no increase in cultivated land. We are maxed out.
Mr. Campbell: I really couldn't speak to that either.
Senator Ogilvie: Has there been any major change in weed
or pest control in the non-agricultural lands in the three provinces, the
marginal lands, the highway lands, those lands that surround major crop growing
Mr. Nixon: No.
There is one thing that drives me nuts. I was driving through my
entire county in July and August seeing a 10- or 12-foot width of yellow, dead
or dying clover. I mentioned in regard to bee nutrition that this is an area
that could be addressed. Alberta beekeepers struck a committee to try and
initiate these discussions with regional, provincial governments. We were asking
for help in making these discussions take place.
The Canadian Honey Council is also interested in these
discussions because from what we hear, it can be different in different regions.
It depends whose boundaries we're talking within and there are possibly other
industry sectors we can work with to help. I believe there are more chemicals
being used to control for convenience.
Senator Ogilvie: Coming back to my question, over the last
five years, do you believe there has been a significant increase in the amount
of that activity?
Mr. Nixon: Yes.
Senator Ogilvie: In Alberta.
Mr. Nixon: Yes. A few years ago I made a call to
somebody on this and they were supposed to be using spot treatment methods, but
I no longer see spot treatment; I see a truck sprayer with the boom hanging over
the side going from one end of the road to the other.
Senator Ogilvie: What about Manitoba and Saskatchewan?
Mr. Berg: In the last five years we have seen an increase
in the use of convenience spraying both in crops and along roadsides.
Mr. Campbell: We've seen the same. As Kevin mentioned, you
will be driving down the road and see places where there are trees and what
should have been flowering plants that are sprayed dead. A beekeeper in my own
hometown lost hives this year from the municipality spraying for grasshoppers.
When farmers are spraying for grasshoppers it seems strange to be spraying the
ditches for grasshoppers as well.
Senator Ogilvie: Thank you.
Senator Demers: I'm replacing tonight here.
I'm a city boy, and I have a comment and also have a question.
What a great committee to learn what I have learned tonight. It's unbelievable.
I live in a country where bees drive me nuts; they bite my dogs. I burn what is
left on the roof. I will never kill a bee again, I'll tell you that.
I'm sitting here listening to everyone; what a great education.
I'm so glad I'm replacing someone. I'm not trying to get on the committee by the
way. I'm just being honest. I never thought bees were that important. Yes, they
make honey but they're extremely important for Canada. Thank you so much for
your presentation. It's a good education for me. They say you never stop
learning and I learned a lot tonight.
The beekeeping industry in Canada encompasses commercial
beekeepers as well as hobby beekeepers. The question is: What are the challenges
associated with the diversity of producers?
Mr. Hicks: Senator Mercer toyed with this issue. I don't
think it's in the scope of the committee, around the economics of beekeeping,
but we were talking about coffee shop economics and developed a little bit of
coffee shop economics this afternoon.
If you take the gross numbers from Statistics
Canada, it appears that Canadians contribute about $7 per Canadian to the
beekeeping industry in Canada. We're talking in terms of fruit and berries and
nuts and the contribution that honeybees make across the country. It seems like
a $7 contribution per person isn't that significant. As an industry, we have a
lack, to a certain degree, of professionalism in some things we do, in terms of
IPM and our ability to hire professionals to develop IPM programs and that sort
of thing. I would say that if there were things that could change to improve the
industry, if we even increase Canadians' contribution to the bee industry to $12
or $13 per Canadian, which is still not a huge financial burden for a country
like Canadian, it would make a sea change in the beekeeping industry.
Mr. Nixon: I will
come back to the question that was asked.
To comment on your opening comments, one third
of the food we eat requires pollination from a honeybee, so it is significant.
Urban beekeepers, hobby beekeepers, are an
important part of the industry. In a lot of ways, they are the face of our
industry. As commercial beekeepers, running a business isn’t necessarily at the
farmers' markets downtown in the cities, facing the public. They are an
important part of the industry. One of the challenges is getting some of that
information out to them, and that was asked earlier. How do we provide that flow
We believe it is working in Alberta, but we had
to make some changes to get there. Because of the environment of the bee
industry the last few years, “Save the Bee” campaigns are everywhere, and it's a
good thing for the industry. There are people who want to manage their bees in
as organic a way as possible, which is fine, but the fact of the matter is that
bees fly, and disease and pests intermingle. It's trying to share that
information between the groups. If they choose not to use that information,
that`s up to them, but it also is a risk of exposure to the commercial
beekeeper. There is that relationship, though.
The Chair: Mr.
Berg and Mr. Campbell, do you want to add to that answer?
Mr. Berg: I don't
think I can add a whole lot.
Mr. Campbell: I
think that was a good view on things.
Senator Rivard: My question is for Mr. Nixon.
In your presentation, under heading C, entitled “Factors
affecting bee health” you state that in Alberta there do not seem to be many
agro-pesticide incidents, even though the same products are used on canola,
potatoes and corn. You attribute this situation to the success of your
communication and education program for aerial applicators. Would you care to
elaborate a bit more on the topic and tell us if this program is still active
and whether it can be found in Quebec and in Ontario?
Mr. Nixon: I'm
not sure if that relationship exists in Quebec and Ontario. I believe you may
have some witnesses coming who could answer that better than I can.
In my comments here, there are two separate
things. The relationship with aerial applicators is foliar applications to a
crop, and that relationship has been growing every year, I would say, as well as
the relationship with farmers. A lot of farmers are custom spraying or
self-application, and communication is key. All over the province, I think it's
just getting better and better.
The second part of that is the neonicitinoid
issue and the pesticides being used on canola and other crops. That's what I'm
referring to. The same neonic that is being used on the corn and soy, where we
hear of these incidents in Ontario and Quebec, is the same product that is being
used on canola seed in Western Canada, so we're not seeing these same incidences
reported in the Prairies.
Gentlemen, in testimony that we heard from witnesses I believe from Atlantic
Canada, and I think also from Quebec, they talked about cooperation between
beekeepers and farmers with respect to spraying, and indeed it may have been
some people from Ontario as well. The cooperation was that the farmers agreed
not to spray. If they knew where the hives were, they would agree not to spray
when the wind was blowing that way or, if possible, they would spray at night
when the bees were back in the hives. It seems to me this is not the only
solution to the problem, but it sounds like a simple solution that has worked
out. It's a human solution as opposed to a scientific solution.
Is there any effort within the bee industry and
also within the farm industry to come up with an agreement so that, where
possible, spraying happens at night or, if the wind is blowing in one direction,
farmers say they will not spray that field today but can spray over there where
there is no hive and come back to the other field when the wind is either not
blowing or blowing in another direction? Is there any effort to have some
cooperation and coordination?
Mr. Berg: In
Saskatchewan, we have been working on that effort a lot. Over the past winter,
we have been working on introducing DriftWatch,
which is a GPS location map that beekeepers will be to use to pinpoint their
hive locations. Any applicator will be able to go on that same mapping system
and see where all the hives are located.
What will that do? Is there going to be a formal agreement or an ad hoc, for
lack of a better term, gentlemen's agreement between the beekeepers and the
Mr. Berg: At this
point, it is a voluntary use system. It would be voluntary for the operators to
look at this system. But it is putting the locations out there. The one thing
we've always heard in the past was, “Oh, I didn't realize the bees were there.”
That's a question I've been meaning to ask because we heard this in the
beginning of the study. If there is a hive next to a field and the bees are out
doing what they are there to do, doesn't the farmer know that they are there? If
he doesn't know they are there, it could be because they are on the next farm,
of course. Isn't there some way of readily identifying it, such as a flag that
flies above the hive that says “beehive,” so that the farmer say, “Ah ha, even
though they are not bees I brought in, I know there are bees there.” There must
be some way of universally identifying a hive so that all farmers will know. The
farmers need you just as much as you need them, if not more. There should
be a way of coming together and cooperating with each other by somehow
identifying where hives are and farmers taking responsibility for sensible
spraying. I'm not suggesting that they don't spray, but sensible spraying. Is
that what DriftWatch will do?
Mr. Berg: That's what DriftWatch is going to be about. In
Saskatchewan, often our hives are hidden in old abandoned yard sites where there
are 30- or 40-foot tall trees around them, so unless your neighbour farmer
happens to drive on that yard site, he has no reason to drive in there. Those
bees could be there for 20 years and he may not know, and he could have a field
a quarter mile or a half mile away.
Senator Mercer: They are being pollinated by those bees.
Mr. Berg: That would be the problem. Unless you are up in
an airplane, if you are spraying with a ground rig you might not know those
hives are there.
Mr. Nixon: It's a tricky one. Bees can fly a three-mile
radius, so they can cover a large area. I think there is a regional difference
in this situation as well because in the Prairies, large quarter-section areas
are being farmed. In a lot of cases one farmer will have a lot of land in a
specific area. Coming out east here, these quarter sections are broken up into
much smaller pieces of land and multiple landowners. How many people are you
going to call to make arrangements to spray on a windy or non-windy day? We have
to make sure there is practicality there. We realize that for growers there is a
window of opportunity to control some things, and we need to respect that.
It's a tough one. I think there has been significant progress
with the work by PMRA in how they are assessing chemicals and new product
registrations for their toxicity to bees. There is some good work being done
there as well.
Senator Mercer: What about the annual meeting of the
Canadian Federation of Agriculture? Are beekeepers present there?
Mr. Hicks, you mentioned education earlier, but that was internal.
Isn't it the responsibility of beekeepers to educate farmers on a national scale,
to be at the CFA annual meeting and regional meetings to say, “Here's our
problem and, guess what, if you're not successful, you're not going to be
Mr. Nixon: I think that has started, but we've got a way
to go with that. The Canadian Honey Council definitely has engaged in
discussions with some of these other sectors. But we do have a long way to go
and you are exactly right: We need to get our face out there in front of these
people and let them know why, who, when and how, and it has to be done.
Senator Buth: I have a comment in terms of what Senator
Robichaud was talking about. CFIA has appeared before the committee and talked
about the process that they are going through in terms of the risk assessment,
so I didn't want to leave the impression that they hadn't been here.
Senator Robichaud: My comment, Senator Buth, was in
relation to their letter to them.
Senator Buth: It's part of the risk assessment process.
I'm just making a comment.
Senator Robichaud: There are very important questions. I
think they could answer here.
Senator Buth: Sorry to start the debate in the wrong
I'm curious about your check-offs. Do each of your organizations
have check-offs or a levy system essentially, and how is that money spent?
Mr. Campbell: We don't have a check-off, per se, in
Manitoba for bees, no.
Senator Baker: How does your organization survive then?
Mr. Campbell: We scrape by; membership dues, mainly. Also,
we collect a little bit of money from bee samples that are analyzed for bee
Mr. Berg: In Saskatchewan, we have two organizations. We
have the Saskatchewan Beekeepers Association, which is kept alive by
membership dues and advertising, and we have the Saskatchewan Beekeepers
Development Commission, and it's kept alive by a check-off levy.
Senator Buth: How much is that?
Mr. Berg: I think we are at a dollar a hive right now.
Senator Buth: So that goes into a pool of money?
Mr. Berg: It goes into a pool of money. Research and
education is their mandate.
Mr. Nixon: Our commission is regulated. It's a voluntary
commission, and producers remit their levy per hive. It's a flat fee plus per
hive. It's voluntary, so they may request a refund.
We've done fairly well since we've become a commission. We've
been a commission since 2002, just over 10 years. I believe we have 95 per cent
compliance — if that's the correct word — or support from producers. We have a
great manager in our office who treats the money as if it's hers, and we are
able to allocate probably a quarter of our budget to research funding.
Senator Buth: Do you know if the Canadian Honey Council or
any other beekeeper association is accessing any funds through the research
clusters, the agri-science clusters?
Mr. Hicks: Yes. The members of Canadian Association
of Professional Apiculturists access NSERC funding and AgriInnovation
funding, and there are several funding organizations that our professionals are
able to participate in.
Mr. Berg: In Saskatchewan, we have the adaptation team,
which was just awarded a $499,000 grant. Medhat Nasr is involved in that
as well. Rob Currie, from Manitoba, is in that study at well. It's a
three-year study. Those gentlemen were here in the past to testify.
Senator Buth: I have a question on the pollination for
almonds. Mr. Campbell, you were talking about that, if you could get the same
amount of income that the beekeepers are getting from pollinating almonds. Do
you know what they get for pollinating almonds in the U.S.?
Mr. Campbell: I believe in previous years they have been
getting up to $150 per colony.
Senator Buth: So they would get paid to put the colonies
into an almond orchard then?
Mr. Campbell: That's correct, yes, much the same as
blueberries in Canada, or cranberries, even hybrid canola in Alberta.
Senator Buth: What would you get for hybrid canola
production, Mr. Nixon?
Mr. Nixon: There are some minor differences within
companies, of course. Every company has its own contract. They do inspect our
hives. They inspect 10 per cent of the bees we supply and they grade them, so
there is a sliding scale. It's about 150 per hive for a base.
Senator Buth: That's similar then in terms of the
pollination service that you are providing.
Mr. Nixon: Yes.
Senator Robichaud: For the record, I know it's in the
letter or the information you sent us, the cost of importing bees from New
Zealand and Australia compared to importing them from California and commenting
on the state of their health when they get here, which has a direct impact on
the price that you pay for whatever you get.
Mr. Nixon: Because of our dollar, I think the price from
Australia and New Zealand went up 10 or 15 per cent the past few weeks. Right
now it looks like the price of package bees from those two areas will be around
$150 for a two-pound package, one kilo from New Zealand.
We can open up an American beekeeper magazine today and see a
three-pound package of bees going for $45. We are all business people, and the
Americans know what we're buying packages from Australia and New Zealand for.
Realistically, we don't expect these packages to be coming in at $45; but the
health in itself is valuable. From Australia and New Zealand, a big part of the
$150 is for freight. At times, a problem for accessing packages is the number of
planes and how much space they have to ship bees. You can imagine that it's a
delicate shipment. Literally, complete shipments have been lost in transit due
to overheating. There are definitely some risks in importing packages. We
believe that bang-for-the-buck, we can access just as good or better bees for
equal money or less.
Senator Robichaud: From California.
Mr. Nixon: Yes.
Senator Buth: I've become aware that there is bee
insurance in Saskatchewan. Is this a new program? Can you tell me a bit about it?
Mr. Berg: Mortality insurance was announced yesterday by
Saskatchewan Crop Insurance program. Unfortunately, I was not able to
attend that unveiling as I was on my way to Ottawa. It's brand new to us. I
believe that Manitoba and Alberta have a program like that in place already.
This will be the first year that it's available to us. Unfortunately, I don't
know the details.
Senator Buth: That's an interesting area in terms of
insurance, so perhaps our research analysts could get some of the information.
Mr. Campbell: We've had two-years' experience with
overwinter mortality insurance. We're in our third winter now. I've taken part
in the insurance program, and my first year was claim free. Last year, I wasn't
so lucky. I would much rather have live bees in my hives than some money to try
hopefully to access more. When you have a severe loss like we had, and your
winter lasts as long as it ours did, by the time you find out about the loss, in
many cases it's too late to order new bees. You receive money from the insurance
for that loss and you end up living on it to get you through the year because
you don't have an income from those lost hives.
It saves a lot of businesses, but it's really not an answer.
Senator Buth: I understand that and was just curious about
it because I hadn't heard about the insurance program. We would like not to have
to deal with floods and things like that.
Mr. Campbell: We're very thankful for what Manitoba
Agricultural Services Corporation has done for us.
Senator Buth: Mr. Nixon, do you have any experience with
Mr. Nixon: We have had it in Alberta for about five years,
I believe. The uptake on it has not been very high. To trigger a claim given the
cost of the premiums, it really didn't work out for the producer, but in some
situations it might work. I have similar comments to those of Mr. Campbell.
Senator Buth: Thank you very much.
Senator Robichaud: Can we expect a copy of the response
that you will get from the CFIA?
Mr. Nixon: If we get one, I think we could share it.
Senator Robichaud: Okay.
The Chair: That was a little question and a little answer.
In previous meetings, the committee heard about the key role that
native bees play in crop, fruit and vegetable pollination across Canada. Can
share with us whether some of your members breed native bees and what percentage
of native bees they would breed?
I'll start with Mr. Nixon. It was a short question, for a short
Mr. Nixon: No, we commercial beekeepers manage European
honeybees. Native bees live within populations, and we're using stock that is
meant to produce a honey crop to pollinate. Native bees naturally live in a
smaller population and aren't as easily manageable.
Mr. Berg: No comments.
Mr. Campbell: No. I would just add not only in small
populations but also small population densities. As he pointed out, across most
of the Prairies, you are in huge agricultural areas so there probably isn't much
room for them anymore.
The Chair: To the witnesses, you testimony has been very
educational. Your presence shows cooperation and has touched on the mandate of
our order of reference ensuring bee health. Thank you very much. If you feel
that you want to add to your testimony, please do not hesitate to contact the
clerk of the committee.
Mr. Nixon, before I adjourn the meeting, you have the last word.
Mr. Nixon: I just want to say thank you for this
opportunity and for looking into the issue at this level. I would love to throw
out the invitation: If any of you are ever in Alberta, get in touch with us
directly at our office. We would love to show you beekeeping in Alberta.
Senator Demers: Mr. Nixon, he has a condo in Florida.
The Chair: The meeting is adjourned. To the witnesses,
(The committee adjourned.)