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Saturday 20 September 2003
I'm retired now, and days or weeks may pass between beekeeping articles  I recommend visiting pages from previous years.
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Today, Ellen sorted the wraps, and found that the number we had assumed to be on hand was overestimated, since what appeared to be a pile of 600 individual wraps was actually just a hundred or so, on top of a pile of older wraps.  We had to change the order we were loading, and make a refund. 

We had given Paulo the job of sorting and counting them in the last dew weeks before he returned to Brazil, and we have since proven what we suspected all along: that he had ignored his instructions and had mixed up various types of wraps.  We knew he was not at his best during the last weeks, and was wasting a lot of time.  We had even considered firing him, but kept him on out of kindness, knowing he needed wages to get back home.  It is now obvious that he pretty much wasted the time he spent on the job during the last several weeks.  We're pretty philosophical, though.  Some people donate money to churches; we just pay employees sometimes whether they do the job or not...

Dennis helped load wraps, and pulled honey in the home yard.  There are six hives to go now in the home yard and the ones at Boese's -- 29 I'm told.  He worked until 7:30, since the mornings are cool for blowing bees.  We now have 38 supers off with at least some honey in them.

Sold the rest of our hives today.  Several gents came by.  I quoted them $225 each for the 60 or so I expect I'll have after we feed them, and they said that is a good price.  I gather they have asked around.  They spoke for them all.  The price is for doubles, fed, but not wrapped, purchased now.  Supers are extra.

I saw Klarence in Three Hills.  He reports that is dad did very well with the hives he bought from us.  He estimates 175 pounds per hive, even though a few hives got ravaged by ants before they noticed, and dealt with them.  I gather he also split them a bit, since he is looking for additional wraps.

Bert came over for supper on his way home from Meijers'.  He bought two splits from me this spring, and we took care of them for a while, then he took over.  He pulled the honey today and took it to Meijers to have it extracted.  He had borrowed a hand crank extractor from a neighbour, but soon decided that this was a job for the pros.  He reports the gross weight taken from the two hives at 420 pounds, and that calculates to 300 pounds of honey, net, after 120 pounds is subtracted for the weight of the 6 supers when empty.  Not bad for splits.

of the Day

 What Everyone Needs to Know About Bee Stings

Roberts Rules of Order  (More links 1  2 )

Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. Wind northwest 20 km/h. High 17. / Tonight : Cloudy periods. Low zero with a risk of frost. / Normals for the period : Low 3. High 16.

Sunday 21 September 2003
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Yesterday and last night, I went back over entries from the past few days, added new topics, and fixed up and illustrated others.

Today was mostly a desk day.  Dennis came in and drained the syrup mixer tank and pulled the honey at Boeses.  There was a fair bit.  I think we have about 30 boxes now.

After supper, we went to Global Grounds in Linden to visit with Robinsons.  We're planning to go houseboating and were working out the details.

Today : Cloudy. 30 percent chance of showers early this morning then clearing. Wind becoming northwest 20 km/h late this morning. High 14.  / Tonight : Clear. Low 3.  / Normals for the period : Low 2. High 16.

Monday 22 September 2003
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From the Mid-west USA...

...Every one of the honey brokers agreed there is a world wide shortage of white honey.

My crop will probably end up at 70 pounds.  Not what we hoped for.  But with the price around  $1.50  still not bad.

We have had over 7" of rain in the main parts of our operating area & very little ran off.  A good start for next year & the alfalfa & clover.  All look much better.

The Recent CFIA Announcement:
Opening the Border to Queens

What does it mean?

The recent Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) announcement about opening the Canadian border to mainland U.S. queens represents a watershed decision.  This announcement was not made at CHC's request, or with CHC's approval, as were past extensions of the import prohibition.  This move rather appears to be an independent move by CFIA to take charge, to get on-side with free trade issues, and to avoid the embarrassment that close scrutiny of the ban would bring.

There is nothing a civil servant hates more than getting caught off side, or in the middle of a political war.  Such an miscalculation is embarrassing, and can seriously affect reputation, future assignments and promotions, and even retirement options.

When CFIA inherited border closure from another agency some time back, the border closure still had general acceptance in the Canadian bee industry, and was probably still legal under international trade rules.  Moreover, until recently, a large majority of Canadian beekeepers and scientists (and quite a few Americans) believed  that the prohibition was in the best interests of the Canadian bee industry, and fully justified.  At the time, opposition to the embargo was muted, and restricted to a few regions and individuals.  Those Canadian beekeepers who disagreed simply put up with the inconvenience, went out of business, or quietly imported U.S. bees unofficially, with only occasional arrests and with only minor fines being assessed.

Much has changed since the mid-nineteen eighties when the border was originally closed to bee imports.  CFIA may have overlooked, or may have ignored, progressive changes in international rules about such restrictions on trade that came into being during the years of the prohibition's existence (see below), the change in distribution of the bee mites, and the progress made in managing the economic damage from mites.  CFIA continued to renew the prohibition at CHC's request, even though the rationale for doing so became progressively more dubious to the point where, at present, it is likely illegal.  A lot has changed since the mid-nineteen eighties.

  • In 1989, a U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was signed.
  • By January 1994, Canada, the United States and Mexico had also signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
  • In 1995, the original 125 signatories of the new World Trade Organization "ushered in a new era of multilateral cooperation and freer trade" with GATT

At the beginning of the embargo, NAFTA, FTA and GATT rules did not apply, and Canada was well within its rights to ban bees -- at that time -- without meeting current standards.  Free Trade and GATT changed everything.  These new international rules prohibit trade restrictions unless they met certain very specific criteria. 

One criterion that permits import restrictions of the type in question here, is the phtyo-sanitary consideration.  To (over)simplify, this rule states that if a named pest/disease etc. is present in one country, and trade in specific items/animals and will likely cause transmission to another country which is apparently free of the pest/disease, the importing country can legitimately restrict or ban imports of such items/animals.

This rule worked in CFIA's favour in the early stages of varroa spread, but once varroa became widely distributed in Canada, Canada became liable to complaints under the rules.   Canada is now in violation of the agreement, in the opinion of many observers.

Even if the prohibition were somehow proven to be legal, it has other severe weaknesses that have shown up over time.  We Canadians have learned a lot during the embargo.  In the early stages, we thought we could survive and thrive without U.S. bees.  We'd learn to winter bees and breed bees and raise queens, etc.  We did all that, and poured a lot of government and personal funds into the projects. We managed to struggle through, and there were some notable successes.  Some beekeepers manage to be totally self-sufficient, at least for a while, however, we have discovered that most beekeepers cannot keep this up over a period of time, and many cannot manage without a reliable supply of bees and queens.  We thought we'd save a lot of money that was, at that time, going out of the country to buy bees.  We learned better, though, we found that spent the same money, but for poorer bees from less reliable suppliers. 

In a nutshell, in the past decade and half of embargo, we have learned

  • Varroa and tracheal mites are readily manageable at low cost, but when controls fail, good cost-effective replacement bees must be available instantly.

  • Beekeeping in Northwestern Canadian provinces depends largely on a good, reliable supply of quality imported package bees and queens in a season extending from April through May.

  • Some winters, bee losses are unexpectedly very high, and last-minute replacements, ordered late, coming as late as May, are vital to survival of producers

  • Sources other than those on the US mainland CANNOT supply the quality and quantity needed or in a reliable and timely manner.

  • A lot of bees -- many tens of thousands of queens annually (almost 100,000 annually by some estimates)  -- have been quietly coming in from the mainland US while the embargo has been in effect, with no apparent ill effect.  Suddenly cutting off that supply has created tremendous demand on all other queen sources, demand these other sources simply cannot meet.  Everyone, including those who were not buying smuggled queens, has suffered from the resulting shortage.

  • Canadian sources, even after a decade and half of support and encouragement, are not nearly able to fill the void for more than a small minority of beekeepers

  • Australia and new Zealand are not immune to sudden appearance of new pests and cannot be trusted to keep them out -- or warn us in a timely fashion if a new scourge appears.

  • Even if Australia and new Zealand get a new pest, we will have no choice but to continue to buy from them under the current regulations, since we are not permitted to use the logical alternate source of package bees! 

The situation this spring was a good example of the predicament we are in.  SHB was discovered, and we had nowhere else to go.  What if it were tropilaeps clarae they discovered?  Even if we opened the US border then, the US industry could not respond quickly enough to save us.  we need to open the border at least six months in advance of need to allow for them to gear up.

  • Lack of bees has had a huge economic cost to Canadian beekeeping over the past decade and a half, not only in terms of additional work and risk, but also in terms of foregone opportunities.

...And, most importantly,

  • We have learned that a healthy bee industry is more important than minor, manageable threats to the health of individual colonies.

Additionally, as a result of this experience, and as a result of observing the success that U.S. scientists and producers have had in mitigating and overcoming the ill effects of varroa and tracheal mites, the popularity for blanket border closure is dropping to new low levels in Canada.  Moreover, recent arrests at the Canada/US border of beekeepers bringing home U.S. queens -- a result of increased security after 9/11 -- and the resulting prosecutions of well-know and well-liked beekeepers have caused those of us who sat on the fence to have make up our minds and take sides.

The majority of the fence-sitters have joined the open-border advocates, and opinion is rapidly swinging the balance in favour of U.S. bee imports.  Support is even growing fast for a complete opening of the border, both ways and allowing provincial and municipal regulations to provide necessary controls locally where needed.  The fact is that many Canadian beekeepers would love to send bees south to U.S. beekeepers in the Fall and receive back nucs in the spring.  The economic advantages of such co-operation for both parties are obvious.  The main stickler here is that some powerful beekeepers are afraid of competition and are running a fear and disinformation campaign to prevent change, and they recruit many unthinking followers.  Fear is a strong force.

We have come to the point now, where resistance to free trade in bees across the border is almost entirely justified by protectionist arguments, and protectionism is not justifiable under international agreements.  Regardless of whether two-way exchange becomes possible in the near future, current high honey prices are making the smarter beekeepers realize how much they are losing annually, simply due to inability to buy the bees they need when they need them.  They are exhausted and limited by the need to spend 1/3 of their scarce beekeeping time, or more, splitting, raising queens, and generally making sure they will have bees for the next season, when they should, ideally, be putting their full effort into producing honey.  Everything is forcing beekeepers and regulators alike to the the conclusion that the embargo has served its purpose, and is now far too limiting, costly, and impossible to justify. Since the justification for continued prohibition due to mite worries has run out of steam, diehard protectionists have resorted to another fear tactic: they cite fear of Africanized Honey Bees (AHB) as justification for a continued embargo.

As for the threat to public health from Africanized bees, should U.S. bees be imported, that threat  has proven to be entirely hypothetical, a product of ignorance and fear mongering, but nonetheless a powerful image to wave in front of the undecided.  The simple fact is that, in the limited U.S regions into which Africanized bees have migrated, apparently no statistically significant increase in bee-related deaths has been noted.  Additionally, U.S. bee breeders are highly skilled in selection and are unlikely to tolerate or produce vicious stock for export.  Anyone doing so, even once, would quickly lose his business.

Furthermore, there is no proof that AHB genes are not already present in Canadian bees. No survey has been done, and even if one were commissioned, no incontrovertible basis for comparison exists.  It is well known that Taber imported Africanized queens from Kerr in Brazil and widely distributed the progeny to breeders in the U.S, in the middle of the last century.  At that time, bees from the U.S. traveled freely into Canada, and it is entirely possible that we already have some African bee genes in Canadian bee stock, dating from as far back as the seventies.

Recent events have driven home how destructive arbitrary border closures can be.  Canadian cattle, sheep, and other livestock producers -- and all the people and industries who depend on them for commerce -- have suffered terrible financial and personal loss due to the current poorly justified continuing embargo on Canadian meats and livestock.  Although there was reason for an initial closure to beef and cattle while the extent of the infection and the risk was investigated, there is no reasonable excuse for continuation at present.

The border closure to U.S. bees and the U.S. border closure to Canadian beef are similar.  Both closures seemed to be reasonable precautions at the time, and it was reasonable to continue them until the risks were understood.  In each case, loss and dislocation occurred in both in Canada and in the U.S. due to the interdependence of some segments of the industry.   In each case, athough the embargos have proven a windfall to some, others, and the public at large, have suffered a greater total loss than the total of all benefits.  In each case, there is no longer any rational excuse for continuation of the prohibition, but in each case, it lingers due to political factors, and optics.  Fear is a more powerful force than faith.  

Although adjustments have been made to limit the cost to us of restricted trade in bees, the damage continues.  The prohibition must be lifted as soon, and as completely, as possible.  Just as the U.S. beef embargo of Canadian beef and cattle is an overreaction to a slight and exaggerated threat, the continued closure of the Canadian border to U.S. bees is an overreaction to minimal and theoretical threats. 

From  recent communications, it appears to me that CFIA is now becoming aware that it is in an indefensible position, and is moving to extricate itself gracefully. If CFIA maintains the embargo, it's a lose/lose situation for CFIA.  In the face of lessening support, and the prospect of legal challenge by U.S. bee suppliers and/or Canadian beekeepers, they need to cut their losses ASAP, and are doing so as fast as they can.  This recent announcement is an initial step, and if they know what is good for them, and I'm betting they do, CFIA will find a way to get entirely out of the bee embargo business within a year, maybe even six months.

What CHC thinks no longer matters.  They've been cavalier, and thus lost their credibility on this with CFIA, and much of the honey industry.  The game is over. CFIA will make its own decisions based on the facts.  Can CHC regain industry the respect and support it needs to function effectively, and the support of those who interests it has neglected so long?  We'll see.  I'll bet they'll be claiming that this announcement was their idea.

We know it wasn't.

Friday April 15, 2011 05:05 PM

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Reference Articles

Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement (CFIA)
Risk Assessment 2003

Risk Assessment Summary by Eric C. Mussen -
Extension Apiculturist, cooperative extension, University of California,
Review of Risk Assessment, an Edited transcript of interview with Bill Wilson
Risk Assessment Response by Importation Committee of ABA

Other links
Article | Rant | Letter | email

Also see this diary from June through to today for additional background and discussion

Dennis finished pulling the honey today and headed for Meijers with it.  We have 72 boxes, as it turns out.

I notice the CHC is planning to develop a recommendation to CFIA regarding the recent announcement of CFIA's intent to permit U.S. mainland queens into Canada.  Let's hope that CFIA stays independent of CHC and only accords CHC the same attention as it does to the comments of other stakeholders.

That said, CHC has a new website, and after some growing pains, it is looking good.  Although CHC is way out to lunch on the border question, CHC does a lot of good work, and Heather Clay works tirelessly for our industry.  This new website is the result of her efforts, with design and implementation by Rudy.

The plan is to make the site interactive in order to have input and discussion on important initiatives, such as Canadian On Farm Food Safety (COFFS).   COFFS, IMO will be the key to maintaining consumer confidence, access to markets, and continued high prices for our premium product.

I cannot find things there as easily as I did before, but I suppose I will learn my way around in time.  I also notice the left panel on the site has a login with username and password, but have no clue exactly how beekeepers get usernames and passwords, or if users must be CHC members to enter that part of the site, or not, and cannot glean that info from the front page.  Again, I suppose we will find out in due time as the site matures.  I can't complain.  who can find anything on my site??

of the Day

Today : A mix of sun and cloud. Wind becoming west 30 km/h gusting to 50 late this morning. High 20. / Tonight : Cloudy. 60 percent chance of showers. Wind west 30 km/h becoming light this evening. Low 2. / Normals for the period : Low 2. High 16.

Tuesday 23 September 2003
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The first day of Fall

The Alberta Beekeepers Association 2003 convention will be held at the Fantasyland Hotel at the West Edmonton Mall on November 3, 4, & 5, 2003.

The West Edmonton Mall is the largest mall in the world, and justifiably world famous.

  • The Fantasyland Hotel, the World Waterpark and Galaxyland are all located inside the mall
  • The World Waterpark is giant wavepool in a glass dome and resembles a real beach.
  • Galaxyland is an indoor amusement park, and is home of The Fabulous Mindbender, the World's Largest indoor triple loop rollercoaster.   Galaxyland's Mindbender rollercoaster is 14 stories tall and rated #1 in the world for G-Force.
  • The West Edmonton Mall has more submarines in service than the Canadian Armed Forces, and, oh yes, a pirate ship, a regulation-size ice rink, 102 eating establishments, an Imax theatre (plus the normal assortment of movie screens)... For a Mall tour, click here

Oh, and by the way, the Alberta Beekeepers Association convention program isn't too bad either!

This upcoming convention is an excellent opportunity for a family vacation combined with some business.  Anyone and everyone is welcome.   I recommend arriving Friday night and spending the weekend at the Mall.  Beekeepers typically arrive at least a day early, and I expect there will be a reception on the Sunday before the meeting.  Don't be disappointed.  Make your reservations now.

Edmonton is a city of almost 1,000,000 people, and easily accessible from Canadian and US cities via Edmonton International Airport.

More Edmonton Links:
Edmonton City | Edmonton Transit | Edmonton Journal  | The Edmonton Sun | Info Edmonton Online | University of Alberta | CBC Edmonton | Edmonton Chamber of Commerce | World Trade Centre | Edmonton Space & Science Centre | The Provincial Museum of Alberta | Edmonton Weather | Edmontonplus.ca | Edmonton Art Gallery | Edmonton Guide | Klondike Days 2004 | Edmonton Queen Riverboat | EdmontonTourism | Edmonton Travel Guide

of the Day

Dennis cleaned tanks and fed bees today.  Meijers came for supper and took along a half drum of formic and a slip tank of diesel.  We have no further need of these things -- we suddenly have no hives and only one diesel left, a Swinger that will use 5 gallons a month at most -- so they are going to use these products up for us while they are still good.

Today : A few showers or flurries early this morning then becoming sunny. Wind increasing to northwest 30 km/h. High 11. / Tonight : Clear. Wind north 20 km/h becoming light near midnight. Low minus 2 with frost. ./ Normals for the period : Low 2. High 16.

Wednesday 24 September 2003
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We continue cleanup around the yard.  El & I drove to Calgary to look into furnace options.  We've decided to replace or augment our coal stoker so that we can get away for longer periods.

Today : Sunny. Wind becoming south 20 km/h near noon. High 17.  / Tonight : A few clouds. Wind south 20 km/h. Low 7. / Normals for the period : Low 2. High 16.

Thursday 25 September 2003
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Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. Wind becoming northwest 20 gusting to 40 km/h. High 19.  / Tonight : A few clouds. Wind northwest 30 km/h. Low 5. / Normals for the period : Low 2. High 15.

Got the books to the accountant, finally.  Cleanup continues.

of the Day

Here's a great FREE screen grabber: Gadwin PrintScreen 2.6

Friday 26 September 2003
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I am curious about the cost of queens and nucs in the Canadian area.

What did you pay for, say, 100 queens the last that you purchased. (delivered to your site)

We pay about $14.50 per queen and get 104 for the price of 100. 

What did you pay for nucs that you last purchased. (delivered to your site)

We don't buy nucs.  I've heard various prices.  All nucs have to be from Canada.  No imports allowed  Packages, however do come in from Australia and New Zealand.   I did not buy any, but 4lbs with 2 queens seem to me to be anywhere from $115 and up.

 I was wondering what the cost difference from the Aussie or Hawaiian bees compared to what we have to pay for related items here in North Carolina, US.

Australian and Hawaiian cost almost exactly the same, regardless of currency fluctuations.  Peculiar, eh?

I have been following your diary and enjoyed it greatly.


All prices are in Canadian dollars, which at last spring were at about $0.65 US.  with the CAD at more like $0.72 now, I ma sure prices will come down next spring.

Additional note: 

With the possibility of Canada relaxing the border to queens and/or packages; could this not create a  temporary shortage in these two items (in the US) until suppliers can make the necessary increases.   I can see the cost of queens and packages increasing due to a larger demand; than yards can provide.

That is entirely possible, depending on how much advance notice is given, and how certain the market is.  The queen shortages that the Canadian industry suffered this year may have been partly due to the discussions underway in early spring about the possibility of the border opening to mainland queens.  Some Alberta beekeepers told Hawaiian suppliers that they would cancel their Hawaiian orders if the border opened and that they would buy U.S. mainland queens if they could.  As a result some of us believe that Hawaiian suppliers played it safe and did not stick their necks by out raising more queens than they were absolutely sure they could sell.  As you say, it takes time to ramp up production, so the uncertainty caused a shortage.

Should a decision be made to import packages, hopefully the announcement would be made well ahead of time.  Nonetheless, shaking packages from hives diverted from honey production or pollination can be done on a few days notice.  Raising the queens for those packages, however, takes as much as year of planning and preparation if there is no surplus capacity in the industry. 

Those queens could, however, actually come from Hawaii.  Queenless packages can be shipped with a queen substitute, such as a QMP lure to keep them calm.  Some of our friends purchased Australian packages and installed Hawaiian queens bought separately in place of the queens that came with the packages.  Some of us a quite happy with Hawaiian stock.

Nonetheless, ideally, the border will eventually open for Canadian bees to be sent south to U.S. partners each winter.  That would increase the supply of good bees for pollination.  After pollination, the hives could be shaken for packages and/or split before being sent back up to their Canadian owners for honey production.  Both Canadians and U.S. beekeepers would benefit and unique local conditions in Canada and the U.S. exploited to the benefit of both.

I find it interesting that the cost of queens in Canada were not higher due to the increased shipping demands

The shipments are all combined and handled by a very responsible third party (our co-ops) in the middle, and they take only a tiny cut.  The shipments are also very large, so that costs of shipping and handling, and the business risks, are minimized.


A paragraph quoted from The Gazette (Montreal)


September 26, 2003
Kevin Dougherty

The Quebec agriculture department was cited as announcing a $1.9-million program yesterday to help Quebec beekeepers whose hives have been devastated this year by the parasite mite Varroa destructor. In announcing the program, Agriculture Minister Francoise Gauthier was cited as saying that Quebec's 200 beekeepers have 37,000 hives, and Varroa destructor has wiped out "no less than 50 per cent" of them this year. Denis Pellerin, of the beekeepers association, was cited as saying the damage is even worse in terms of honey production. For 2003, honey production in Quebec is between one-third and one-quarter of the usual amount.

Today : Sunny. Wind becoming northwest 20 km/h. High 19. / Tonight : A few clouds. Low 2.  / Normals for the period : Low 2. High 15.

Saturday 27 to Tuesday 30, September 2003
I'm retired now, and days or weeks may pass between beekeeping articles  I recommend visiting pages from previous years.
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We got ready Saturday, and drove out Sunday morning early to Sicamous B.C. to board a houseboat at Twin Anchors.

Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. Wind becoming north 20 km/h early this afternoon. High 17.
Tonight : Clear. Wind north 20 km/h becoming light this evening. Low zero with frost.
Sunday : Sunny. High 18.
Monday : Sunny. Low minus 1. High 14.
Tuesday : Sunny. Low 6. High 21.
Wednesday : Sunny. Low 6. High 20.
Normals for the period : Low 1. High 15.

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