Bees, pollinators and honey-makers alike, are enjoying some much deserved attention right now. There was a time not too long ago when many consumers had no inkling of the importance of pollinators in our food supply. Unfortunately, much of the added attention stems from recent bee deaths, the mysterious colony collapse disorder (CCD) and controversy over the use of neonicotinoid insecticide seed treatments on corn and soy crops.
Flying directly in the face of all the doom and gloom, however, is an increasingly vocal group of commercial beekeepers. In Western Canada at least, the bees are all right. The honey industry is healthy, profitable and the bees are thriving. Yet Western Canada is also home to over 18 million acres of canola (sometimes more), a crop often treated with neonicotinoids and heavily favoured by bees, and a region known for long, cold winters. If neonics are the only reason bees are dying, why isn’t the West a giant bee graveyard?
Lee Townsend, a commercial beekeeper with TPLR Honey Farms at Stony Plain, Alta., has a rather reasonable theory — management. In the interview below, Townsend discusses Alberta’s own brush with low hive success in 2006 and the path the province took to bring health back to the hives. Townsend also covers the recent wintering losses survey put out by the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists (CAPA), where all provinces but Ontario showed average wintering losses, and what could be at play there, taking into account that Ontario recently announced funding to “rebuild hive numbers”.
Townsend lays out the myriad of factors that go in to a healthy hive, from minimizing beekeeper-placed pesticide residues left in boxes, to the importance of surveillance, to the treatment of diseases and pests within the hives. That’s not to say there aren’t risks to bee health with neonicotinoid use, but as Townsend outlines in this discussion, banning the product is nothing more than a Band-Aid solution to a much more complex problem.
If you can’t see the embedded interview, click here to hear this interview.