Letters to the Editor

Beekeepers upset by ministry stance

To the Editor,

Re: Beekeepers anxious about winter results, Feb. 12.

I was interested reading the article about Vancouver Island’s honeybees. I found it sad that our current Minister for Agriculture and Lands appears as misinformed and oblivious as his predecessor.

When the Ministry first lifted the 22-year-old restriction of honeybees coming onto Vancouver Island from the mainland and the rest of Canada last May, the decision was made without consultation or communication with the overwhelming majority of Vancouver Island and Gulf Island beekeepers.

As was well documented, last winter, up to 95 per cent of the bees on Vancouver Island – Nanaimo south – mysteriously died.

When asked for help to figure out what had happened, ministry representatives declined to investigate, simply stating that it was ‘bad beekeeping’. Interestingly, this was the same diagnosis given to the beekeeper in the U.S. who first raised the alarm of colony collapse disorder.

If poultry or cattle farmers had losses of this magnitude, would government not investigate, and would it diagnose the issue as ‘bad farmers’?

Instead of looking for answers and protecting Island bees from the increased risk of exposure to pests and diseases not yet here, the ministry instead stripped away the restriction that served to protect all Island bees.

The minister has stated that re-instating the restriction would be inconsistent with federal standards and with other B.C. bee districts.

In fact, federal regulations state: “The importation into Canada of used beehives or bee equipment is prohibited under the Health of Animals Regulations, paragraph 57(a),” as per the Canada Food Inspection Agency website.

Several places in the world serve as precedents for the value of isolation in an age of colony collapse disorder, pests, diseases and bee deaths. It is common knowledge that there is a connection between the decline in honeybees and the concern for pollinators and therefore food production.

Several experts in the field share the concerns and stated in a letter to the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, among others, that it would be inappropriate to consider opening the gates to yet more problems in beekeeping where they presently do not exist and that there is great risk of spreading pathogens and pests with the movement of comb and beekeeping equipment from one region to another.

After two meetings with ministry officials, no further communication has occurred, regardless of letters sent supporting our position.

In the end, the restriction for the movement of bees onto Vancouver and the Gulf Islands has been lifted since May 2010. This means that hives have been coming onto the Island in the hundreds, some overwintering, and each arriving with uncertain inspections.

The impact of this action will become clearer in the coming months as the bees come out of winter.

The coalition continues to expect communication with the ministry in regards to this urgent issue. To not do so is tantamount to risking the future of the bees and our Island environment’s food security.

Kathleen Silvey, chairwoman

Vancouver Island

and Gulf Island Coalition

of Beekeepers

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