“This is very disturbing,” said Ernesto Guzmán, president of the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists, which surveyed commercial beekeepers across the country.
Many factors can lead to the death of bees, but Guzman said he believes the main factor behind the damage is the varroa mite — a parasitic bug that attacks and feeds on bees. Warmer weather led to an early pollination season and stronger colony expansion in the spring of 2021, but weather conditions also favored the development of varroa. particles ofHe added.
Guzmán said in a recent interview, “(Bee) colonies start developing early in the season and end breeding late in the season, so the varroa population also exploded and became much larger at the end of the summer.” happened.” Unless they harvest the honeydew before treating the colonies for mites.
“(Beekeepers) usually start treatment against mites in early fall, and it may be too late? When the mite population was higher than in other years,” he said.
Guzman’s survey showed that 46 percent of colonies nationwide did not survive the previous winter. Manitoba recorded the largest loss at 57 percent, while Alberta lost 51 percent of its colonies. Meanwhile, Nova Scotia was least affected, losing 15 percent of its colonies.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada says the health of bees – and their crop pollination and honey production – is important to the environment and economy.
“In Canada, canola seed production is the most economically important crop produced with a contribution from honeybees, generating $12 billion in farm gate value in 2021,” the department said in a statement. It states that the government and the beekeeping industry are working together to address the high mortality rate of bee colonies and the impact of varroa mites.
Saskatchewan beekeepers reporting reduction in bee population
Guzman said that most beekeepers use insecticides to control the parasites, but added that insecticides cannot be applied when there is honey in the hive. He said the honey industry may have to consider other treatments or harvest honey earlier than usual to use pesticides.
The government is funding studies on other treatments, investing more than $550,000 for research on the efficacy and safety of three probiotics that could potentially be used to improve the health and survival rates of bees. can go.
Guzmán said it would be costly to recover from last winter’s heavy losses. “It is very difficult for the industry financially speaking,” he said. “This means more money is spent on bees from another beekeeper or package of bees imported from another country. The more colonies you lose, the more money you will spend to make up for your losses.”
Canada imports bees from Australia and New Zealand. Guzman said beekeepers will do what they can to have healthier colonies in the winter and try to prevent another hard cold season, which will be “another blow to the industry.”
“The industry is working hard to find a solution to the problem.”
© 2022 Canadian Press