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--- Yogi Berra ---

Hives ready for a final check and wrapping

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Friday 10 October 2003
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I'm off to the Southern Alberta beekeepers Association Meeting at Allan & Amanda Philpot's place at Duchess, near Brooks, today, then to Meijers' big barbeque.

I got to the meeting at 10 sharp, and found that Allan had rounded up all the usual suspects.  Meijers were missing, but they were otherwise occupied today.  There were were about twenty-five in attendance, including Medhat (Alberta Government), Heather Clay (Honey Council), and George Lammertsen (Bayer).

Medhat made a presentation, George spoke, and then Heather.

George indicated that the bees delivered to pollination were better this year than in other years and figured the good spring in Southern Alberta figured into it, but that the new contract rewarding stronger colonies that was worked out this spring had not hurt.  George is currently optimistic, and expecting growth in seed production next year.  When asked if as many as ten thousand additional colonies might be needed next year, he said that his is only one of three companies, and that things can change, but that 5-6 is more plausible from his current vantage point.  He also indicated that current, local beekeepers get the first opportunity, but that he may need to draw bees from farther away again, if things continue to go the way they are now.

Heather spoke about the new CHC website and about COFFs -- the Canadian On-Farm Food Safety Program that CHC has been developing.  These two initiatives are valuable contributions to the bee industry in Canada, and COFFS is very important to the future sales and prices for Canadian honey.

However, Heather also mentioned that Honey Council and CAPA and delegates from the provincial organizations will be having a meeting with CFIA and with provincial reps in Kelowna, just before the BCHPA meeting -- apparently to work on the border question.   After years of opposing all efforts to import bees into the west from the US -- several times in response to declarations of emergency by Alberta -- CHC has finally been driven to consent.

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The CHC treatment of the border issue and the concerns of those heavily burdened by its effects has been disgraceful, and reflects very poorly on CHC.  In fact, the outrage over the oppression of the Peace River beekeepers and others who do not -- or cannot -- share the vision of an ideal, isolated Canadian industry dominated by the eastern regions' politics may well cause the end of CHC.

Not that Heather said so -- she took the the high road and stuck to facts -- but I get the impression that Honey Council can see the hand writing on the wall and is now fighting a rearguard battle to maintain, or appear to be maintaining, control of CFIA's agenda on the border prohibition.  My personal take on things is that CFIA is waking up to realize that they have been mislead on the border issue by the special interest biases that are inherent in CHC and CAPA, and are proceeding towards eliminating all involvement with bee prohibitions as quickly as they can.  I also get the impression, from speaking to several sources, that the importation of queens is a forgone conclusion -- only the details are in question.

The reason for a special CHC meeting now, in October, just before the BCHPA meeting in Kelowna , not later at the CHC convention in Winnipeg in January, is -- in my opinion -- that many in the CHC are quite concerned that the ABA could finally vote to leave CHC at the ABA annual meeting in early November.  The ABA has entertained motions on the question almost every year for the last ten years and more, but the motion has always failed, sometimes by a narrow margin.  However, if the ABA forms a commission this year -- and there are indications it will -- the ABA will become financially much stronger than CHC, and have roughly the same size of representation.  Along with the adherents to CHPA, ABA could eclipse the weakened CHC.

Although CHC is fairly sure the ABA will not leave, CHC cannot afford \to take a chance.  Currently, CHC's best hope is to undermine support in the  ABA membership for pulling the ABA out of CHC, by appearing to toss western beekeepers a bone.  That bone is support for US mainland queens.  They'll likely also dangle the hope of future packages and/or a totally open border.  They are making a big show of finally taking these matters seriously, now that they have lost their influence and the end of the prohibition is in sight.

Right now, it appears Honey Council is struggling to try to regain leadership in the industry they claim to represent, but which they have fractured into two camps through arrogance and insensitivity.  After being a major roadblock to the aspirations of many, CHC will now attempt to seem to be a leader the action to open the border to queens.  IMO, there is really no need for the upcoming meeting they have arranged at great expense, if it is only to discuss queen importation.  The border will open to queens -- under permit -- anyhow, and IMO, the big, expensive meeting would be all for show and face-saving.

That makes me wonder if there is another, hidden, agenda.  Could the meeting be an effort to obtain a tacit agreement for renewal of the blanket import prohibition when it comes up for renewal shortly?  Those who want queens now must be very careful not to give CFIA the impression that they are willing to trade away the right to import packages soon, or even two-way border traffic in bees.  Although CFIA will, hopefully make up its own mind, CFIA may be tempted to renew the ban if it thinks that the industry would accept another two years of such interference.

 As for packages from California, they are a real possibility not too far down the road, especially if those in favour of an open border make a point of writing and phoning provincial and federal politicians, and civil servants, to point out the need.  They might also point out that CFIA has been far too cozy with Honey Council and CAPA, and that CFIA should be doing their own, independent due diligence, using sources both north and south of the Canada/US border, and in Europe, not exclusively biased Canadian sources.

Print this commentary

After the presentations, the group present at Philpotts today decided to form an official organization -- The Southern Alberta Beekeepers Association -- and charge $0.25 per hive membership.  The dues paid by pollinating members will be matched by the seed companies and the whole pot earmarked for research on topics of local interest.  Officers were elected, and the meeting adjourned at about 3.  Interestingly, there was a previous SABA, and, for that matter, the ABA was formed in Lethbridge and met in the south for many years, as I recall.

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There is No Way that Eastern Canadian Beekeepers can Understand Western Beekeeping1

Chatting with some of the others at break in the SABA  meeting, I pointed out that there is no way that Eastern Canadian beekeepers can understand western beekeeping, since easterners are all south of the 49th parallel, and thus south of the very southernmost borders of all western provinces (excluding a tiny bit of Vancouver Island).  Someone mentioned bees in New Liskeard, ON, the extreme far north of Ontario beekeeping.  I looked it up.  New Liskeard, the far northernmost frontier of Ontario beekeeping, is south of the 49th! (See the right-hand end of purple line.  The curved grey line is the 49th)  For that matter, if you went straight east of my place, and I am a Southern Alberta beekeeper -- hundreds of miles south of the real centre of action in Alberta -- you'd be in James Bay.  Hardly bee country.

You'll also notice that a bit of Gaspe and the Quebec North Shore are above the 49th.  AFAIK, that is not beekeeping country.  The line continues out to Gander and Corner Brook in Newfoundland, again, not prime beekeeping country.  If you're looking for Southern Ontario, it's so far south that I accidentally cut some of it off when making this map.  I also cut of all of Alberta north of Edmonton -- including the Peace River, a major beekeeping district -- before I realized it.  That goes to show how far north the North really is.  The southernmost tip of Ontario is as far south as the Northern tip of California.

I bought hives of bees in Ontario one year, a quarter decade ago.  When I went to look at the hives in March, I was amazed to find that the bees were an entire month ahead of my own.  In some parts of the east, winter is two months -- 33% or more -- shorter than on the prairies.

 How can people that far south -- off the bottom of my map -- tell Northern Albertans -- off the top of my map -- and separated as well by many hundreds of miles of bush, lakes and prairie, how to run their businesses?  Don't you think it takes an amazing amount of gall?  I do.

Geographical considerations aside, the average size of commercial bee operations in the central provinces is in the hundreds, while in the west, the averages are in the thousands.

Not only that: I recently heard that the total number of hives in Quebec -- a province that nixed our getting queens this spring when we were in dire need -- is only 22,000.  How can that be true.  I can name three friends here in Alberta that have more hives than that, when added together! 

How can such distant and inconsequential groups hold sway over our livelihood?  Only in Canada. 


Friday April 15, 2011 05:05 PM

  1. After I wrote this, I realized that there are, of course, exceptions.  One of the problems that have characterized this whole 'debate' is the sweeping generalizations and a tendency to overlook the individual exceptions.  I apologize to Jack H and a few others -- they know who they are -- who are the exceptions.

Print this box

I drove from the meeting to Meijers', where they were having a pig roast.  Ellen caught a ride with Purves-Smiths, and we all had a good time with Meijers, their relatives and friends from Holland, and some of their neighbours.

On the right is a picture of the high efficiency gas boiler that heats the honey house and water for the operation.  I understand that it is around 150,000 BTU and only costs several thousand dollars.

of the Day

Honeybee's genes match its job

Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. Wind west 30 km/h. High 12. / onight : A few clouds. Wind northwest 30 km/h. Low 1.  / Normals for the period : Low zero. High 14.

Saturday 11 October 2003
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Jon, Sarah, Kalle, and Katrina will be arriving late this evening at the Edmonton airport, from Rhode Island, where they live, so I drove to Ponoka to get Mom at Jean's and drive her back to Swalwell.  She visited with Chris and Jean for a few days and will have a day to visit with Ellen and me before the others arrive.   Jean will be picking the others up tonight.  Tomorrow, they will all be coming to our place, and staying over for for Thanksgiving.

Ellen stayed home to deal with some buyers who were coming for bees.  We had not even offered the bees for sale.  I had planned to winter them, but these people had approached me and asked to buy the lot.  They came twice previously, and promised to buy the bees, but they can come only on the weekend, so we disrupted our plans to accommodate them.

At any rate, two fellows were there when Mom and I returned -- one of the the original buyers and a new person -- and they had looked at the hives and marked them as acceptable, or not, according to our agreement.  As expected, since we haven't done anything to the hives this Fall, except check them for mites, and bulk fed them, there were several dead, and several weak and/or light.  The rest were just fine.  Dennis was supposed to have picked up the deadouts, but must have left a few that were dwindling.  He hates to shake out the last few miserable bees and somehow thinks they will somehow build up.  We had already discussed the probable number of good hives previously with the buyers, and they understood that, of the 68, we would likely have only about 60 worth buying.  When  they checked the hives over, it worked out, by their own reckoning, to 58.  That is about as expected.  We talked, and before they left, we discussed details.  They said they were satisfied, agreed that we would deliver them.  We shook hands, and they left, agreeing to come the next day to decide about floors and wraps and to pay the bill.

Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. Wind becoming southwest 30 km/h this afternoon. High 12. / Tonight : Cloudy periods. Wind southwest 30 km/h becoming northwest 20 overnight. Low 3. / Normals for the period : Low minus 1. High 13.

Sunday 12 October 2003
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In the morning, when I was expecting the buyers to be arriving, I got a call from the leader of the original buyers, who had not accompanied the others yesterday, saying that the third fellow -- the new guy -- had the money and didn't know anything about bees.  Apparently had gotten cold feet and was backing out on them.  That's what I hate about selling bees and beekeeping equipment. 

At any rate, we didn't have to waste any more time on that, and soon all the kids arrived.  We visited and walked around town and generally had a lot of fun.

Today : A mix of sun and cloud. Wind west 20 km/h. High 12. / Tonight : Cloudy. Wind west 20 km/h becoming light overnight. Low 3.  / Normals for the period : Low minus 1. High 13.

Monday 13 October 2003
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Today : Cloudy. 60 percent chance of showers or flurries. Wind becoming northwest 20 km/h. High 9. / Tonight : Cloudy periods. Low 1. / Normals for the period : Low minus 1. High 13.

Tuesday 14 October 2003
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Mom and I drove to Calgary for the afternoon to meet with our planner.  Supper was leftovers.

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In my mailbox today:


How are you?  I haven't talked to you in a long time.  Hope you had a good summer.  It sounded like a nice time.  I see you have a picture of my bees on the top of your page this week.  How do you think they looked since I'm sure you probably took a gander at a few.  Talk to you later.  See you at convention.

Yup.  The picture at the top of this page is one I took driving by one of my old yards.  I sold the bees to a young fellow, and I hear he did okay.  Actually, I might have lifted a lid or two if I was not all dressed up and in a hurry, but I didn't even jump the fence. 

From the looks of the yard, and the fact that there were only a few gaps where hives are missing, I assume they are doing fine.  I see they have been fed.  I hope that he is checking for mites.  I'm sure I'll hear the whole story at convention. 

(Have you registered and reserved a room?  I have.  Don't delay!)

Today : Cloudy with sunny periods. High 8. / Tonight : Cloudy periods. Low minus 1. / Normals for the period : Low minus 1. High 13.

Wednesday 15 October 2003
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Mom leaves today, so I am driving her to Edmonton International.

That trip amounted to five hours of driving, and would have been fun if I hadn't eaten raw onions on a burger for lunch.  I can usually get away with that, but today, maybe since I'm already suffering from a cold, the onions left me feeling awful, and tired.  I stopped to shop a bit on the way home, but wasn't enjoying it, so went home sooner than I normally would.  This cold, maybe these colds -- I suspect that I have had two in a row -- are getting to me.  I'm too stuffed up to sleep (It's 2 AM right now) and I've been feeling mildly depressed for the past few days.  That fact dawned on me when I noticed that I'm not enjoying things that normally excite me.  Hopefully, it is just the cold and the cold medicine. 

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An interesting email, and my reply:

I've been reading your diary pages, and it sounds like the 'Russian' bees are going to be the coming thing as far as mite control is concerned.

The people who have the real thing -- the USDA co-operators -- really like them.

Any thoughts on where to get either packages or queens of this stock ?...............I have not seen them advertised in the short time (2 months) that i've been gathering information.

I'll ask on BEE-L. I assume you read BEE-L?  It's a great resource.  Probably taught me more about bees (and people) than the bees themselves.

I could start a couple of colonies with another breed and then re-queen with Russians, if I could find a supplier.

See my email below:

Thank you for your time, and please keep writing those pages............

We'll see how long I keep it up. So far, so good...

Then I wrote this message to BEE-L

I got an email today, asking about US sources of Russian queens and packages for this coming season. The writer is in the USA, getting back into bees, and has not seen advertising for Russians in the short time he has been looking.

Has anyone in the US found a supplier of either Russian queens and/or Russian packages that (s)he would care to recommend? Or -- without running down any suppliers by name -- any practices to watch out for?

With most strains of queens, a purebred queen can often simply shipped with a package of non-purebred bees, since, usually the new queen is well accepted after riding with the bees, and within a few weeks, the newly installed hive will assume the characteristics of the queen.

However it occurs to me that, perhaps, this practice might not work well with Russians, since I've heard reports about Russian queens being harder to introduce into non-Russian stock.

Has anyone direct experience in these matters, and care to comment?

Mentioning the above practice of shipping a queen with non-related bees, makes me think. Does anyone on the list specify, when ordering, for example, a carniolan queen, that the bees in the package must also be carniolan? Does it matter? How much?

(In Canada these days, due to the difficulty and uncertainty of getting packages (or even queens) because of restrictions on bee imports, we don't get to specify anything. We just order what we can, from limited genetics, pray that the packages we order will actually arrive, (and arrive alive), and then accept anything we get. Hopefully that will change soon).


Today : 30 percent chance of morning flurries otherwise sunny with cloudy periods. High 5. / Tonight : Cloudy periods. Low minus 1. / Normals for the period : Low minus 1. High 12.

Thursday 16 October 2003
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I slept okay last night, but was up for several hours after midnight.  Maybe this cold is receding.  today is the first day for the flu shots locally, and i am not sure if i can get one while I have a cold,  I always get the shots since I had a flu about eight years ago that lasted six months or more and which, in some ways never left

I see the traffic on this site is definitely on the upswing the past few days.  I don't know if it is due to my writings about the border, but I suspect that it is.  If so, and if people are using material from here for presentations and reflection, please make sure that the most recent versions of each article are used.  I write and re-write constantly.  The border prohibition is a topic that is very difficult to understand, simply because it is so familiar and because accepted positions and ways of thinking have developed over time, and because it is an emotional issue with many. 

To break out of that box takes time and work.  A lot of things we assume are simply wrong, and getting a realistic understanding is a struggle.  I've listed, before, the points that I think have been ignored, and things that have changed, and maybe I'll list them again soon.  If not, I'll try to organize the articles for easier reading and printing.  We'll see if I have time.  In the meantime, although I see that a wide range of people are hitting the diary, I'm not getting any feedback.  I'd appreciate some comments. Write me, please.

Today : Becoming cloudy with sunny periods. Wind south 20 km/h. High 11.  /  Tonight : Cloudy periods. Wind west 20 km/h. Low 6. / Normals for the period : Low minus 2. High 12.

Friday 17 October 2003
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I've been spending too much time on this bee import question, but have found the whole matter fascinating.  Given the facts, how can we explain the silly box we have gotten ourselves into in this industry, a situation where we subordinate the needs of beekeepers to blanket regulations and accept the tyranny of a questionable majority?  It is a fascinating puzzle.  All the pieces are on the table, but how do they fit?  Some people do jigsaws or crosswords, I guess I do bee politics.

Ruminating on matters like the bee import prohibition, over time, ideas slowly bubble up to consciousness.  Sometimes obvious facts lie unrecognized for a long time, then suddenly spring to mind.  Today it hit me suddenly that I, apparently along with everyone else, have somehow believed that CAPA represents the beekeeping industry in some way.  Eureka!  They don't!  CAPA represents government regulators and extension services, academics, universities, and even, perhaps, chemical companies interests, but they do not actually represent the beekeeper.  CAPA members are important and useful to beekeepers, and are in constant interaction with beekeepers, and are our friends, but are not beekeepers in the normal sense.  The simple fact is that, when we look closely, CAPA's interests often run directly counter to those of actual beekeepers.  We are the cows and they are the cowboys, and although we travel the same trail, we have different plans.

Knowing that, changes my understanding of the balance of representatives at the tables, and explains partly something that has puzzled me for a long time -- if beekeepers' views are being represented in decision-making, why has such injustice taken place over recent years?  It is simple: under-funded and under-connected beekeepers are outnumbered and out-maneuvered by paid and well-networked civil servants.  Provincial regulators are talking to federal regulators, and deciding our fate.  These regulators are also influencing CHC with their agendas, and a regulatory perspective is prevailing over common sense and forestalling natural compromise.  Think about it; Saskatchewan aside, what provincial apiarist wants the responsibility for regulating and enforcing any more bee-health concerns?  Letting the feds do the dirty work is easier, even if it means a one-size-fits-all outcome is assured.  Ridiculous, perhaps, but it works for CAPA.

That how it looks to me, this morning at 4 AM, anyhow.  Tell me I'm wrong.

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How a Good, Reliable supply of Package Bees can Reduce Chemical Use in Canada

Just when I think I've remembered all the salient details, I remember one more thing.  One of the big concerns in Canadian beekeeping is that chemical use for mite control in beehives will result in detectible residues that make the honey unmarketable.  Beekeepers, desperate to keep their bees alive because of the uncertain and limited supply -- and high cost -- of replacement bees are forced to use dangerous chemicals in their hives more than they would if good replacement bees were less difficult to obtain.  In Alberta, even beekeepers who are still getting good control with a moderate application of Apistan are being strongly encouraged to use Coumaphos, and many who have no need to are doing so.

Wake up people! Coumaphos is a chemical that safety regulators in both Canada and the USA are trying to withdraw completely from the market ASAP, due to its noxiousness.  It has no place in a beehive that is producing honey, and apparently no place in a beehive that is used to produce queens.

What are we doing?  At the very least, we're making our beeswax unsaleable and committing to replacing all our combs on a five year rotation!  I'm told Horace Bell melted his entire outfit -- 35,000 hives -- and started over with fresh wax after the chemicals caught up with him.  That is easier to do in Florida than it is in Canada.  Drawn comb is a prairie beekeeper's best asset, and we are fouling it with a poison.

Frankly one of the many considerations that caused me to sell when I did is the prospect of having to use coumaphos.  A few years ago, we did not know what we know now, and it looked inevitable.  I could see a lot of comb replacement would become necessary within a few years, if we were forced to use coumaphos, and that the value of our wax would be further degraded.

I think, however -- now that we have had a chance to consider alternatives like oxalic acid and now that varroa-resistant bees are a reality -- that , non-emergency use of coumaphos will prove to have been unnecessary, and a big mistake for many Alberta beekeepers.  IMO, those using coumaphos today, up here in the north where winter and spring bee survival is tough, will soon be paying the price in terms of poorer winter survival and other vague problems.  We're going to need a lot more packages to keep our numbers up.

Other perfectly good alternatives have been ignored in the rush to buy one more expensive and dangerous commercial pesticide. In Canada and in the USA, for whatever reason, we have done the damage.  Alternate treatments have not been followed up, perfected and approved.  Many beekeepers who have never had a problem with Apistan have rushed to Checkmite+™.   I can understand Checkmite+'s emergency application where resistant mites have been proven to exist, but I cannot understand using Checkmite+ until absolutely necessary or continuing its use after emergency control is achieved..

 I also cannot understand why Canadians have failed to develop and approve known safe, cheap, effective treatment treatments that likely will never encounter resistance or foul our honey and wax -- like oxalic acid --  but continue to promote using a noxious, dangerous chemical like coumaphos.

The amount of money that has been spent -- in Alberta alone -- using Apistan™ and Checkmite+, compared to the cost of using oxalic acid, would have paid for the research and approval of oxalic many times over.

Go figure.

Anyhow... back to the main subject...  How a better supply of package bees could reduce chemical use in honey producing hives by 50% or more...

We Can Cut Chemical Use in Half!

  • Pre-treated package bees: Package producers in California with sufficient business devote their hives strictly to bee production.  They never produce honey, just bees.  Any honey gathered is used in producing more bees.  The income from queens and bees sustains these beekeepers.  Because they never produce honey, they can treat for mites at any time of year and keep levels very low.  Bees shaken from their hives have very low mite loads.

  • Easy, reliable, low-chemical dose treatments possible: Nonetheless, if a Canadian beekeeper feels that treatment is desirable on arrival, packages are very cheap and easy to treat, with a minimum of chemical.  Because package bees have no brood for several days after introduction in Canada, a yard of newly installed packages can be given a very brief treatment, rather than the 42 day treatment necessary for wintered hives.  Because the quantity of bees in each hive has been measured (2 lbs), and all hives are at exactly the same stage of development, treatments can be measured and applied very accurately.

  • Reduce the use of chemicals in the hive by more than half: Usually no treatment is needed on packages the first year, so one whole treatment is saved in Canadian hives -- the bees were treated in the states before shipment. perhaps drop tests show they need treatment the second year.  By then -- using an industry average loss figure for attrition over one year -- one third of the original colonies die before the spring treatment, so only 2/3rds, of the originals, if any, need treatment.  If they can wait until fall, and additional 10% has dropped off, and little more than half the original colonies purchased need chemicals, and only after a year and a half!

The use of chemicals in the hive is reduced by more than half, and up to three quarters! In operations running package bees and selling or otherwise eliminating the bees in fall, possibly NO chemicals might be required, especially if brood chambers are irradiated periodically.

  • Wider use of radiation to sterilize brood combs: When forced to winter bees, beekeepers do not get a chance to examine the frames in their brood chambers the way they do when using package bees as part or all of their replacement supply.  In most overwintering schemes, bees occupy as many hives as possible, year round.

In a combined wintering/package bee operation, hive bodies can be removed from service in a scheduled fashion and examined carefully and/or put through radiation facilities.  Wider use of radiation to sterilize brood combs could reduce OTC and Tylosin™ use to almost nil, according to reports from those who have experimented with electron-beam radiation.

  • Mite resistant bees:  Additionally, when imports of US package bees and queens resume, it will be possible to obtain US-developed mite resistant bees in mass quantities and upgrade the bee population in Canada to require less chemical use than current unselected stock.

Listen up CFIA!  You are Canada's food watchdog, but your current policy is contributing to the need to use chemicals in beehives, with subsequent risks of food contamination.

Ironically, that same ban is preventing easy and inexpensive importation of proven biological solutions to our mite problems from the USA!

A good supply of pre-treated package bees from California -- whether made up of varroa resistant stock, or not -- can contribute greatly to better overall bee health in Canada, improved management practices and significantly lower chemical use, as well as contributing to improved viability for the economically important Western Canadian bee industry.

What better way to reduce residues and potential residues in our food than reduce or eliminate the need for chemical use in hives?

Please do not even consider renewing the border closure prohibition order when it comes up for renewal.  To do so would be to work directly against your own aims.

This article, formatted for printing

I've been re-writing, reformatting, and clarifying some of the articles on this site, and trying to organize them to be more readily accessible, so please go back and re-read them all if you are going to be involved in any decision making in the next weeks. 

I'm hoping that at least some participants will print out copies of any that they find particularly useful, and, perhaps, even distribute them to others. 

Fee free to circle and underline.  Even add a few red !!!s. 

I may not be at some of these meetings.  I'm retired, after all, and it is up to the young bloods to carry the torch. Actually, when it comes down to it, except for the fact that I hate to see my fellow prairie beekeepers getting shafted, I really don't care, since I'm pretty well out of bees.  lately, I'm considering missing the BC meeting, but will go if I feel like it at the time.  I will go to Alberta, just for the fun, and to help my friends at Global Patties get the word out.

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Here is a footer I wrote and added to a previous article. I'm reproducing it here so it won't be missed.
  • There are virtually no natural, feral colonies of bees in Western Canada.  The entire bee population that survives year to year is maintained at great expense and effort by beekeepers, largely because of the scarcity, uncertainty, and poor quality of spring replacements, and about 20% to 25% of the Fall count perish in winter, fouling the beehives and making unhealthy work for beekeepers, cleaning out the dead equipment in Spring.

  • Additionally, a further 10% attrition  in commercial hives is normal during the production season, so annually, on average, about a third of Western Canadian colonies die each year and must be replaced.  This figure fluctuates, and some beekeepers lose up to 100% some years.  Refilling empty hives from Canadian bees is possible, but expensive, compared to using package bees.  The Western Canadian season is short; replacement tasks take bees out of production and heap extra work on the beekeeper at a time of year when the workload is already heavy.  Even the 'self-sufficient' beekeepers that are used as poster boys for the anti-import faction sometimes get partially or totally wiped out and need to buy replacement stock.  I've verified this.  Self-sufficiency is a fairy-tale.

  • The number of packages and replacement queens imported annually into the West, plus the unmet demand, indicate clearly that, in effect, on average, the entire Western Canadian population of bees is sustained by imports.  Moreover, that population is effectively replaced by imports every three years.  For the most part, and with few exceptions, bees in the entire west of Canada are merely an extension of whatever population of bees provides the imports, and not a separate population!

  • The honey industry in Western Canada could continue profitably -- possibly more profitably than at present -- even if every hive was killed or died every year, as long as reasonably priced replacements were available reliably and  in abundance.  In the past, when supplies of bees in Spring were cheap and plentiful, some Canadian operations depopulated all their hives annually, and although most beekeepers would continue to winter bees, some in difficult wintering zones might choose that style of operation again, if they could.

If you agree with me and think I've missed something, or if you disagree and think I've missed something, please let me know.  What I'm trying to do is lay all the cards on the table and would hate to miss any.  It would be nice if all the people who are contemplating this topic are reading from the same page, so to speak. Here's a list of a few of the articles on the matter that are on this site:

 -- An Article | A 'Rebuttal' | An email | More email | And More... | A Rant | An Article --
-- Another Rant | A Letter from CFIA | A Realization | Reduce Chemicals | Looking back | Other Resources  --

In case anyone gets me wrong, to me, this issue should not a matter of personalities, nor should it be a fight between people on firmly fixed opposing sides.  This is a very serious matter that needs to be resolved by fair-minded people meeting and working out win/win solutions. 

One-size-fits-all is not an option, and claiming that the current status is democratic is demeaning to democracy.  A good democracy cares for its minorities.  A bad democracy is like "three wolves and a sheep voting what is for dinner".  Our current situation is even stranger in that one or two dissenting votes from small players, far away, can block the democratic decisions of the preeminent honey producing province in the country.  When one minority can block the aspirations of another minority, far away, we have a dysfunctional situation.

I know many of the people involved in the original decision to close the border, and many who have considered the question over the years.  All, almost without exception, try to be honest and fair-minded, and to work for the good of all.  However, over time, and due to misunderstandings, many have lost sight of the basic issues, and some have grown fearful of the unknown.  Some have been seduced by dreams of self-sufficiency, others frightened by hypothetical threats.

The time has come to examine this question fearlessly, and to arrive at a just solution that accommodates all the various regions and styles of management, as well as one that provides the best opportunity for industry growth.  It's time for a change.  Ideally CFIA should step right away from regulating the Canada/US border bee traffic, and let the provincial and local authorities provide solutions tailored for the local concerns where necessary.

Why do I press this issue?  Maybe I'm just trying to right a wrong.

I clearly remember that day in November, back in the mid-eighties when Jerry Awram called me into a back corridor meeting room at the Mayfield Inn in Edmonton as the ABA convention was winding down.  I was passing by in the corridor and a board meeting was in session.  He saw me and called me in, then asked me whether I thought Alberta should join the rest of Canada in pressing for border closure against the threat of mites.

I was a bit surprised to be asked, since I have not always been well-loved for speaking my mind and letting the chips fall where they may -- I think I had just been defeated in an election, in fact --  but I said that I was personally prepared for border closure.

I said that I had seen it coming, and had been perfecting my wintering, but that it was clear to me that many good beekeepers in the West were not prepared, might never be able to learn wintering, and that a border closure would cause very major disruptions in Canada, and possible destruction of family businesses for our loyal and reliable suppliers and friends in the USA.  Heads nodded in understanding.  Some present had been trained and mentored by Californians.

I continued, and said that, considering that from what we knew at that time, the mites could possibly destroy us and our suppliers as well, so we might be wise to make the sacrifice -- even if it cut off our essential supplies -- and put off the threat until more was known.

We agreed to join the rest of Canada in a temporary border closure to preserve ourselves, and whatever remained of our industry after losing our replacement bees.

Most of us managed to survive, and some even thrived, but the industry has contracted greatly since those days, and although there has been growth, it has been restrained by the much higher level of risk, and the much higher level of expertise required to survive without a good supply, on demand, of replacement bees.

Although we in Alberta agreed to co-operate with the closure of the western part of the border -- the east was already closed -- re-opening it has been more difficult.  The people we helped will not help us.  Moreover, many who were hardest hit by the embargo have left the industry, and the newcomers don't know how easy -- and profitable -- beekeeping can be when you can buy packages and queens from a wide variety of mainland suppliers.  Many beekeepers don't travel and rely on rumour for information.

Most Canadians have not bothered to go south, to the USA, to see how well things are going there now that prices of honey are improved.  I have.  As far as I can see the bees there are healthy and the mites are now a minor issue.  We've always had some bogeyman to scare and manipulate the ignorant.  At one time it was AFB, now it is mites, and if that won't do the job, AHB.

Let's face it.  Mites are now old hat.  AHB has proven a false alarm.  Even rAFB is being managed successfully. Good beekeepers in the USA -- and Canada -- can deal with any and all of these threats.  What we does give us continuing and needless problems, however is lack of a secure source of replacement bees on short order.  Our industry was built on that and suffers in its absence.

Excessive, unwarranted, regulation and restriction of trade is now doing far more damage to our industry than all of the abovementioned diseases and pests combined.

The above article formatted for  printing

Today : A mix of sun and cloud. Wind becoming west 30 km/h near noon. High 16. / Tonight : Cloudy periods. Wind west 20 km/h. Low 5. / Normals for the period : Low minus 2. High 12.

Saturday 18 October 2003
I'm retired now, and days or weeks may pass between beekeeping articles  I recommend visiting pages from previous years.
One Year ago | Two years ago | Three Years ago | Forum | Sale | Write me

Jon and Sarah and Jean will be leaving for Ponoka today.  Early tomorrow, Jon and Sarah and kids fly home to Rhode Island.

Dennis came in and put another formic pad on the hives.  the previous one was entirely dry and, in most cases had been chewed partially or totally away by the bees.  we have some more warm days right now, and we are using them.

In late afternoon, I drove Jon and Katrina to Ponoka, had supper and drove home. these days, ferrying children around is a huge hassle, with the regulations regarding car seats.  A crew that would normally travel in one car now requires several.

Here's a post I made this morning in response some discussion on BEE-L

> I was told that the reason Apistan is used, even in "resistant" hives,
> is it does give good mite drop, albeit they may still be alive.
> So you can get good mite drop with Apistan even with Apistan/Checkmite
> resistant mites.

If that is true, it would explain why Apistan treatment in early spring, in double hives with top entrances, in Alberta, with one strip, seems to work so much better than fall treatment with multiple strips, and why resistance has not been encountered using this method.

I understand that, even in the absence of resistance, Apistan tends to drop plenty of live mites. (Is this true? I wouldn't know, since the mites I see have been drowned quickly in the oil on the sticky board).

In Spring, the cluster is in the top box -- the bottom box is clear of bees -- and falling mites tend to drop away from the cluster to the distant floor and -- if still alive -- perish there. When treated in Fall, when bees are on the floor constantly, any mites dropping to the floor, even a mesh one, have a good opportunity to re-attach to a bee.

I have been surprised by how much more efficacious and cheaper the Spring treatment has proven over the past few years in our operation, when compared to the Fall, multiple strip, method. 

The biggest problem with Spring treatment is getting out early enough to get the strips into the hives a.) before brood rearing begins to increase and, b.) 42 days before splitting, so that all bees get a full treatment before being split.  Since splitting begins for us May 10th, the Apistan must ideally go in on or before March 29th ( 7 weeks or 42 days before splitting).  Using our special individual wraps (1)  (2)  (3) (4) with pillows underneath and normal summer lids on top allows us easy access to install strips and patties without unwrapping the hives too early.



of the Day

Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. Wind becoming south 20 km/h this morning. High 18. / Tonight : A few clouds. Wind south 20 km/h. Low 5. / Normals for the period : Low minus 2. High 12.

Sunday 19 October 2003
I'm retired now, and days or weeks may pass between beekeeping articles  I recommend visiting pages from previous years.
One Year ago | Two years ago | Three Years ago | Forum | Sale | Write me

It is quiet here today.  I'm feeling better, but now Ellen has the cold and spent the day in bed.

I worked on various things and rested.  I think I'm done with the border issue.

of the Day

  • Australian report on the Small Hive Beetle and other matters
    The current prices of US package bees and queens can be found at the bottom of this report, and may be of interest to those who are used to being gouged by the prices of Australian and New Zealand packages.  Sample prices are $31 & 35 for a 2 lbs. w/queen.  Read the report for a more complete listing, including Russian queens and packages.

Today : A mix of sun and cloud. Wind becoming west 30 km/h near noon. High 18. / Tonight : A few clouds. Wind west 30 km/h. Low zero. / Normals for the period : Low minus 2. High 11.

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