Jul 29, 2010

Bees! Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.

Hundreds of people up and down Vancouver Island are speaking out about... bees!

I'm Lana Popham, the MLA for Saanich South. I've also farmed for years and am a strong advocate for local food security. As you know, bees are pollinators and without pollinators a third of our food plants can’t reproduce naturally.

There is a crisis right now on Vancouver Island: last year, 90% of the honey-bees on the island died. We aren't sure why, but the provincial government is making the situation worse by a recent change which allows people to import hives from the mainland. There had been a 22-year old quarantine in effect which protected us from the even worse situation (diseases and pests) facing bee-keepers off the island. But that has been lifted in error and we now need your help before the situation gets any worse.

Almost every single bee-keeper on the island agrees that the Agriculture Minister's actions are worsening the situation for honey-bees on the island. You can read many of their comments by clicking here.

Please help by taking a few minutes to write a letter to your Mayor and Council. This is, in part, an island issue and so we need our municipal leaders to take action. 

Believe me, every single letter has big impact. 

Thank you,


Quick Letter Writing Tips and Info
1. Find the mailing address for your Mayor. Click here for an up-to-date list of Mayors on Vancouver Island. (Note: the Mayor from Metchosin has already written an excellent letter.)
2. Address your letter to ‘Mayor and Council’.
3. Include a little personal information so they understand why this is important to you.
4. A very modest improvement would include a Motion asking the B.C. government to immediately halt the importation of used bee-keeping equipment and/or honeycomb.

If you want to be fancy, you can even take the time to c.c. the BC Minister of Agriculture, Steve Thomson. PO BOX 9120 STN PROV GOVT, Victoria, BC, V8W 9E2

Thank you! Every letter makes a big difference as very few people actually send them.


Why is the quarantine important?

1. There are diseases and pests on the Mainland that don’t exist here yet.

2. The quarantine has slowed the spread of diseases. Varroa arrived here years after it decimated the Mainland. And then only because someone knowingly brought bees in illegally.

3. We’ve just come through the worst winter of losses that the lower Island has seen — do we really need an influx of new problems just now?

4. The losses were up to 90% — what if we have something new on the island that we are about to export now?

5. Local stock is adapted to local conditions. Outside bees aren’t.

6. Surely there was plenty of time for consultations… but were you involved? No? Me neither. Neither were the Island clubs. Neither was the BCHPA.

We can overturn this decision. We need to.

A message from the Capital Region Beekeepers Association

Report from Island Bee-Keeping Community

By Brian Scullion, South Vancouver Island. Aug, 2010

Hello beekeepers and friends. The past six months have been a real challenge for many Island beekeepers. With the severe losses this past winter and the change in the policy on Movement of Bees legislation, we struggle to find any logic to support the policy change to allow bees on comb onto the Islands. We were promised consultations prior to any change in policy, but there was zero communication with Island beekeepers. We were informed via phone conference on April 22 that the policy change would take effect on May 1, 2010, and that the condition to move bees to the Islands would have the same protocols as Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has for overseas imports. Fine, we said, CFIA says no bees on comb. Next thing you know, on May 10 the policy changes again and there’s no mention of the CFIA import conditions. A coalition of Island beekeepers met with the Ministry so we could put our concerns on the table. We reiterated the facts concerning our losses on the Islands this past winter, but the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Lands (BCMAL) did not seem concerned about the contributing causes.

At this meeting we brought examples and demonstrated the most common ways to move honeybees: on comb and in a package. Minister Thompson and Deputy Minister Kislock’s lack of understanding of how bees are moved, or, for that matter, of the beekeeping industry, dismayed us. We explained to the Minister that, in this day of risk and hazard assessments, the movement of bees on comb to the Islands far outweighs any economic benefit. We explained that there is a greater risk of pests, pathogens and disease on comb than in a package of bees. We were amazed when the Minister said we were wrong, there were no greater risk, and the head Apiculturist at the meeting agreed with the Minister. It took a pointed letter from a Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturalists (CAPA) member to have the Ministry understand this fact: Bees on comb poses a greater risk. Period.

We were also told that disease profiles are the same province- wide. What is wrong with that picture? Disease profiles differ greatly! Look at how information is gathered to build a disease profile: If I call for an inspection because I suspect a problem, the inspector will document what was found. But that alone doesn’t create a profile, does it? What about the beekeeper that did not require an inspection, or call for one: is he excluded from the profile? I would say so. Correct me if I am wrong, but a profile should involve an inspector calling me for a sample saying, “We require a sample of your bees as we are conducting assays and a variety of tests province-wide to give a real profile of bee health in British Columbia.” That’s a no-brainer.

As most of you must have read in the newspapers, the first move of bees on comb to the island was a sorry disaster, as the entrances to the colonies were left open allowing the bees to free fly. When the truck came to a stop on the deck of the boat, thousands of bees took flight, and It was not until the ferry made it to active pass before the deck lights were turned down and the doors opened to allow cool air to rush in. The bee carpeted car deck was closed to the public for about a half an hour, and in that time honey bees were washed into the ocean with fire hoses. We are very sad for this mismanaged move and for the unnecessary loss of thousands of honeybees.

I urge all beekeepers, the executive of the BCHPA, CAPA, Canadian Honey Council (CHC) and all bee inspectors Canada-wide to speak out on this policy change. Maybe we have it all wrong! If there are people in favour of this change in policy: Educate me; tell me we have it wrong and why. Tell me how this policy change will be beneficial to all beekeepers. I know of only one individual on the Island in favour of this change. Other than that — silence!

What we have heard, loud and clear, from Island beekeepers and Island BCHPA members, is support for the Coalition to continue pressure on the BCMAL to reverse this policy change and to preserve the health of the Vancouver Island bee district.