All about Commercial Beekeeping in Alberta and Canada

Small Hive Beetle Part 2

Lee Townsend

When I posted my article on the Small Hive Beetle yesterday, I knew there would be some negative reaction to it.  This is understandable, as the beekeepers that are directly affected by having the beetle are concerned about the future of their businesses.  No one wants or wishes for these producers to lose their operations over it, but we also do not want to risk the business of those without SHB.

I received a phone call from one of these infected beekeepers in Ontario, and he depends on having access to blueberry pollination in the Maritimes.  He took issue with my call to expand the the quarantine zone to include the Niagara region, and I would be just as upset if I was in the same situation.  He made some points that I feel need to be shared and expanded on.

  1. An expanded quarantine poses the risk of impacting their ability to be financially successful.
  2. Why should they be punished for having a pest that the majority of other Canadian beekeepers don’t?
  3. They feel that SHB does not present any risk to the Canadian bee industry.
  4. There should be no restriction on bee movement both within Canada and the USA.
  5. There are no treatments available to control the beetle.
  6. SHB does not pose much if any risk to migratory beekeepers.

These points all need to be considered before any final decisions are made regarding the status of SHB in not only Ontario but the rest of Canada.  Of course, I have comments on this beekeepers points.

  1. The risk does exist that an expanded quarantine will impact the profitability of these beekeepers.  Not doing anything to prevent the spread of the beetle presents the same issue, but for the beekeepers that do not have it.  It’s not an easy question to answer, but risking another beekeepers financial future just to save your own isn’t a solution.
  2. I’ve always hated this argument.  Many years ago in Alberta we had a beekeeper with varroa pushing for the USA border to open to packages.  There was great resistance from beekeepers in a region of the province that were free of varroa.  The beekeeper with varroa casually looked at one of the beekeepers opposed to the border opening and said “If you’d like I can move bees to your area”.  Ignorance at its finest.  The solution is not to infect your neighbours just so that you don’t have to deal with your problem.  The other issue with this logic is that the Maritime beekeeping industry is very small, mainly composed of hobby/sideline beekeepers.  Odds are they will not be able to manage hives with SHB, which would quickly put them out of business.  Again, putting someone else out of business just to save your own isn’t acceptable.
  3. We’ve all heard about how the beetle isn’t a problem and that the wax moth is a bigger issue for Canadian beekeepers.  Much of this comes from beekeepers in the USA that have been dealing with SHB since 1996, and they’ve just come to accept the fact there is no getting away from it due to their dependance on migratory beekeeping.  The difference in Canada is that the majority of us are not migratory, so we have a much better chance of preventing the spread of it with quarantines and inspections.  And the comparisons to wax moth are humorous, as wax moth does not lead to bees absconding the hive. Wax moth is highly destructive to equipment in cold storage, but isn’t a problem when equipment are charged with bees.  Nor does it render honey useless, which the beetle does.  But I guess making the claims that wax moth is worse just sounds better.
  4. I’m all for access to packages from the USA, and I’ve been dependant on queens from California for 13 years.  The movement of bees within Canada is also important for many beekeepers.  But there are restrictions on certain movement for a reason.  But when the topic of movement restrictions comes up, the beekeepers against it always revert to the reasoning of “Let us get everything, it won’t be an issue then and it’ll make our lives easier”.  Again, it makes you shake your head.
    1. **Correction – The beekeeper contacted me tonight to clarify this comment.  He supports removing any restrictions on bee movement within Canada, but does not support opening up the USA border.**
  5. There are some methods available to kill and trap SHB, but none of them are overly effective.  Due to this, it appears that most beekeepers with the beetle don’t bother to do anything about it once they have it.  But again, why should someone have to deal with a new pest just because of their neighbours choosing to turn a blind eye to it?
  6. I don’t think anyone questions the fact that migratory beekeeping seems to reduce the impact of SHB on colonies.  That is great news for beekeepers in the USA, where migration is king.  Once again, Canada is different (I have yards that haven’t moved in over 35 years, and that is not uncommon on the prairies).  What does the beetle mean to colonies that never move?  I’m not willing to take that risk in my operation, and it’s ignorant for someone to tell me that I should just to make their life easier.

With the recent find of SHB in BC, it is causing Alberta beekeepers that move their bees to BC for the winter to panic.  With only a month before the bees are supposed to start moving, it’ll be interesting to see how BC and AB approach the issue.  The beetle find in BC was also just one adult beetle, and so far there are indications that it is established there.

But in ON a quarantine of the Niagara region would possibly limit it from spreading more than it has.  And as no bees from ON will move to the Maritimes until spring, there is time for industry and government to find a solution that works for everyone.  Just doing what is best for those with the beetle is short sighted.

As usual, I know this will cause people to want my head on a platter.  I really don’t care, as I’ve had to listen to their views for decades and it’s been expected that those with differing views just sit down and shut up.  My farm is where it is by having worked within the system, and by thinking about what’s best for the industry.  Many other beekeepers in Canada can make the same claim.  They should have the ability to make their views known as well.

 

Lee Townsend
Lee Townsend

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