The NFU, yesterday, decided to get involved in making comments regarding the Gazetting of  honey bee queen imports.   That would be nice, if they had studied the matter, but it appears they are simply repeating propaganda.


One of the characteristics of propaganda, statements that are obviously and indisputably true, and which gain credibility and develop trust, so that false statements that follow are less obvious.  The idea is that people who do not know the facts see some things they recognize as true, and therefore are very likely to accept the more questionable statements as well. 


Let's take a look, and let's mark their essay (here's the original) true or false, then decide if it is factual, or just more propaganda.


Text Box: National Office


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                               MAY 4, 2004




OTTAWA, Ontario –


Opening the border to imports of US queen bees poses serious economic consequences for beekeepers False (assuming that we're talking about serious bad consequences)

...and creates the potential for long-term public health risks


Really? Respected scientists who worked with bees in the Southern US, Mexico and South America disagree. See

...according to the National Farmers Union (NFU)

In a brief to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CIFA) this week, NFU Women’s President Karen Pedersen said True  

...while the Canadian beekeeping sector is generally economically viable

???? True, in the short term.  BUT, honey prices are at an unsustainable all-time high. Even with unrealistically high costs, most beekeepers are okay -- for the present, however, the barriers to entry are high, due to the difficulty of obtaining and maintaining stock, and the difficulty of wintering bees reliably in Western Canada.  Long term, the prospects are not as rosy. Therefore, I'd say, False
...and relatively disease-free False Compared to what?  Diseases and pests are well distributed through Canada

...a proposal to change the federal Honeybee Importation Prohibition Regulations could reverse those trends virtually overnight.

False How that could be?  Provincial and municipal  governments have the power to regulate agriculture locally if there is a real risk. Currently there are restrictions against inter-provincial movement of bees where any risk is perceived.  Moreover, provinces currently have differing import and taxation laws regarding a number of items.  Border officials currently enforce provincial regulations in alcohol and other imports.  How is this different?
The CFIA has put forward a proposal to allow importation of queen bees and their attendants from the continental United States as early as this spring. True This has been the result of agreement by beekeeping associations from all across Canada after extensive discussion and negotiation.  The Canadian Honey Council has called for controlled queen importation.
A ban on queen bee imports, their attendants, and all “packaged bees” has been in place since 1987. True This was at the request of the industry and the Canadian Honey Council at the time, and was meant as a temporary precaution until the pests were better understood.

Very significantly, the East and the West of Canada were closed at different times, thus illustrating that different regions can have different regulations.

The import restriction was put in place at that time because the varroa mite was widespread in US honeybee stocks and posed a significant threat to Canadian hives.

???? Mostly true.  The original ban was due to tracheal mites, but the advent of varroa strengthened and prolonged the ban.  Varroa is now a minor, manageable threat, while tracheal mites continue to cause losses.

Despite a slight decline in the number of beekeepers and hives in the years immediately following the border closure, the Canadian honey sector has rebounded strongly

False The statistics in beekeeping in many provinces are of questionable accuracy, but what is very clear is that beekeeping was expanding at a good rate until border closure.  After closure of the border, the numbers of beekeepers and hives declined precipitously throughout Canada.  In recent years, numbers of hives (not beekeepers) have crept back up, but the strong growth has not resumed.  Much of the regrowth has been due to demand from an entirely new business for beekeepers -- pollination.  

See also the following articles: the point where it is in better shape than its counterpart in the continental United States. False

This is widely misrepresented.  Canada is not as healthy as some would have us think, and the US has problems other than pests and disease.  The US situation is unique.
The Truth About US Hive Numbers from 1989 to 2002.   More

Not only has the US honey industry been hurt by the ongoing presence of treatment-resistant varroa mite strains and other diseases

True Mites have not been good for them, but their big problem has been the strong US` dollar and cheap honey imports destroying profitability there.

it is also burdened by the spread of Africanized or “killer” bees (AHB) in the southern states. 

???? There has been little dislocation there, but the main problem has been the fear-mongering about the AHB.  On a recent trip to Tucson I visited with both commercial and hobby beekeepers and worked with the bees.  I saw little problem.  As far as I know there was no change in the (low) annual number of deaths attributed to bee stings after AHB moved in.  Moreover, AHB has not moved into many areas where they were expected to become a nuisance.

Lifting the ban on imported queens increases the risk of Africanized bees coming into Canada

False As far as I know, Africanized bees have already been brought to Canada.  However, experts say that they cannot thrive here, nor will they exhibit their tropical temper here. 

See these references:

...according to Pedersen. True  

“By opening the border to this problem, the Canadian Government is opening itself, and Canadian beekeepers, to very serious potential liabilities"

False Unsubstantiated speculation.

...she said.


Africanized bees are descendents of a strain which was accidentally released from test hives in Brazil in 1956, and which have been steadily expanding their range over the last 49 years.     The Africanized bee is known for its extremely aggressive behaviour.

True This is true, especially in tropical and semi-tropical regions, however, less sensational reports about more normal, non-aggressive behaviour observed in AHB do not get much press. 

Apparently, where AHB hare found in more temperate regions, they are indistinguishable -- except by DNA and morphology -- from our friends, the European Honey Bee (EHB)

Accounts of people dying from bee stings as a result of unprovoked attacks are well-documented. True This is also true of the common European varieties we manage presently in Canada.  Fortunately these incidents are very unusual.

While Africanized bees cannot survive the cold Canadian winter, the annual importation of continental US queen bees which are descended from or have mated with Africanized bees, or the future movement of entire colonies by migratory operators, poses a very real health threat to Canadian beekeepers and others in their vicinity.

False This is speculating that beekeepers either are not very good at what they do and do not know their bees, or are reckless, and would therefore would deliberately
  1. Breed AHB in the approved export facilities in the USA,
  2. Import AHB into Canada and
  3. Not destroy any vicious bees found among imports in the unlikely case that 1 and 2 happened!

Frankly this is preposterous -- and insulting to beekeepers!

Moreover, experts indicate that AHB do not act nearly as aggressively in temperate climates.  For that matter, AHB has been repeatedly introduced into Europe with no ill effects.

The CFIA claims opening the border would improve Canadian beekeepers’ access to queen bee stocks, boosting the number of colonies and increasing honey production.

True Reliable access to cheaper bees would be beneficial, as would easy access to varieties bred to reduce the effects of disease.  Also imports of cheap packages -- if that ever happens -- would reduce the need for miticide use in Canada.

The NFU, however, notes that opening the border to queen bees will not guarantee an increase in production, or even an increase in the number of colonies.

???? Cheaper and better bees, available more reliably at times of year when they are desperately needed will not "guarantee an increase in production, or even an increase in the number of colonies"???


It will, however, lead to the spread of diseases and pests in Canada.

True Any movement of bees in Canada -- including movement of bees already in Canada -- results in "the spread of diseases and pests in Canada". 

That is not the issue. The issue is whether these diseases and pests are still of economic importance, whether they are manageable, and whether the overall economics are more favorable when all these factors are considered.

Any honest analysis shows that the benefits of obtaining access to US queens  vastly outweigh the costs.

While the CFIA proposal would not immediately lift the ban on packaged bees, it could open the door to wholesale imports in the future, according to the NFU.

True Ultimately, that is not an unreasonable conclusion, but such a decision would be made by the same consultive process that has lead to the current agreement. 

Although the economics do strongly favour package importation for some regions, that is not on the table at present, nor is it part of this discussion.  As such, mentioning it at this time is just a red herring and has no legitimacy in this decision.

Canadian beekeepers have found that raising and breeding their own queen bees gradually improved the genetic quality of Canadian bee stocks over the past 17 years.

True This is always true, everywhere.  Breeding bees does yield improvements and breeding takes place throughout the world.

The US is a leader in this regard and -- although Canadians have distinguished themselves, too -- many beekeepers have discovered that Canadian breeders simply cannot produce and supply adequate numbers of queens at the time of year when they are needed.  This is simply a function of our northern climate and will never change.

Current import prohibitions actually prevent Canadian beekeepers from getting easy access to  new US strains that are bred to reduce the impact of mites.

These home-grown queens improved average honey yield and are achieving widespread market acceptance in both Canada and the United States.

True That is true, however, APHIS, the US animal health authority is now in the process of imposing restrictions against US imports of Canadian bees.  It is hard not to think that this may not be related to the Canadian ban on US bees and the blatant favouritism shown towards Australia and New Zealand.  Both of these countries have been found to have pests which are used as an excuse to ban US bees, but are permitted to export to Canada.

The NFU concluded that

True They did conclude, but after what investigation?
Canadian bee stocks are relatively healthy ???? Compared to what?  If we were looking at our current bee populations from the perspective of 1987, we would never allow imports from any of our provinces in their current state.
...with an abundant supply of queens from breeders in Canada. False No Canadian producer can even nearly meet the demand in season.  Even on balmy Vancouver Island, I've seen queen producers buying offshore queens in May.

To put it in farming terms for farmers (NFU)  Seeding must be done at the proper time for seeding.  Timing is crucial.  Crops that must be seeded by early May -- barley and wheat and canola in our area -- cannot usually be profitably seeded in June and July.  Alberta beekeepers need April and May queens.  Badly.

 “There is no need at this time to lift the restrictions on queens and attendants from the continental US,” concluded Pedersen.

False The NFU obviously knows little about the Canadian bee industry as a whole.

“Any economic benefits to producers will be more than offset by the costs.”

False In any change, some win and some lose.  With border closure, many Western Canadian beekeepers lost.  Many lost a lot of money due to wintering losses and stock shortages.  Some even lost their livelihoods.

Although some few may lose under a relaxing of the border closure allowing imports of queens to provinces wishing to have them, I cannot imagine how the losses could even nearly approach the continuing costs of the prohibition to the industry.


What do you think?  A carefully researched and considered conclusion, or propaganda.

True, ????, or False