October 10th to 20th, 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.
|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.
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.
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
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.
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.
|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.
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.
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.
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.
Mom and I drove to Calgary for the afternoon to meet with our planner. Supper was leftovers.
|In my mailbox today:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Here is a footer I wrote and added to a previous article. I'm
reproducing it here so it won't be missed.
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
"If I make a
living off it, that's great -- but I come from a culture where you're valued
not so much by what you acquire but by what you give away,"
-- Larry Wall (the inventor of Perl)
|Please report any problems or errors to Allen Dick
© allen dick 1999-2014. Permission granted to copy in context for non-commercial purposes, and with full attribution.