Mike Parker doesn’t sugar-coat the scale of the problem that his Beamsville beekeeping business is facing.
“It would finish us,” he said.
When he opened his hives after winter, the president and owner of Charlie-Bee Honey wasn’t expecting the scale of the bee deaths he found. But by his estimation, he’s lost around 90 per cent of his bees.
That means “millions and millions” of bees at one site alone. Out of the 8,000 hives that he manages, only 500 are viable. Roughly 7,500 of the bees were completely dead.
He fears that it could be the end of the business, one of the largest apiaries in Ontario that was set up by his father Charlie Parker in 1970.
Now, Parker and other beekeepers across Niagara are demanding action from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).
From the CFIA, they want permits to bring in bees from the U.S. to replenish to create viable hives. From OMAFRA, they want tests to determine the cause of the bee deaths.
But Parker and George Scott, managing director of Niagara Beeway, say the agencies aren’t doing enough to help.
“If nothing’s done, there’s no recovery, as far as I can tell,” said Parker.
Belinda Sutton, spokesperson for OMAFRA, said that the ministry “continues work to support Ontario beekeepers through a number of programs, including a targeted beekeeper funding intake to support and strengthen the health of managed honey bees. »
She said registered beekeepers can apply for funding to support managed honey bee health and business capacity.
“For example, this includes support to purchase equipment to prevent the introduction and spread of disease, sample and analyze for pests and diseases, and purchase domestically raised queens,” she explained.
In normal years, beekeepers like Parker could replenish their stocks by sourcing queen bees from across the country. But this year, he said, the devastation is so widespread that none are available.
This is backed up by analysis done by OMAFRA and the Ontario Beekeepers Association (OBA). Sutton said that while official statistics are not yet available, “early anecdotal reports indicate a number of provinces and U.S. states are expecting higher than normal managed honey bee colony loss coming out of winter.”
Similarly, Bernie Wiehle, president of the OBA, said that they are seeing a 40 to 50 per cent loss of honeybees across the province, increasing to 70 to 90 per cent in Niagara. Usually, losses of 15 per cent could be expected across the province.
“It’s huge,” he said of the losses.
Read the rest of the article by Chris Pickles here
1. Bees used for honey aren’t treated very nicely.
Just like pigs, cows, chickens, and other animals who are factory-farmed, bees are often treated poorly, injured, and forced to live in cramped conditions, and they must endure the stress of being transported.
When a new queen bee is about to be born, a process called “swarming” occurs, when the old queen and half the colony leave their home. They set up in a new place that worker bees have found for them to begin a new colony. Since swarming means that less honey will be produced, many beekeepers try to prevent it—often by clipping the delicate wings of the new queen or killing and replacing the older queen …
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A third or more of all the honey consumed in the U.S. is likely to have been smuggled in from China and may be tainted with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals. A Food Safety News investigation has documented that millions of pounds of honey banned as unsafe in dozens of countries are being imported and sold here in record quantities.
And the flow of Chinese honey continues despite assurances from the Food and Drug Administration and other federal officials that the hundreds of millions of pounds reaching store shelves were authentic and safe following the widespread arrests and convictions of major smugglers over the last two years.
Experts interviewed by Food Safety News say some of the largest and most long-established U.S. honey packers are knowingly buying mislabeled, transshipped or possibly altered honey so they can sell it cheaper than those companies who demand safety, quality and rigorously inspected honey.
“It’s no secret that the honey smuggling is being driven by money, the desire to save a couple of pennies a pound,” said Richard Adee, who is the Washington Legislative Chairman of the American Honey Producers Association.
“These big packers are still using imported honey of uncertain safety that they know is illegal because they know their chances of getting caught are slim,” Adee said.
Food safety investigators from the European Union barred all shipments of honey from India because of the presence of lead and illegal animal antibiotics. Further, they found an even larger amount of honey apparently had been concocted without the help of bees, made from artificial sweeteners and then extensively filtered to remove any proof of contaminants or adulteration or indications of precisely where the honey actually originated.
An examination of international and government shipping tallies, customs documents and interviews with some of North America’s top honey importers and brokers documented the rampant honey laundering and that a record amount of the Chinese honey was being purchased by major U.S. packers.
Food Safety News contacted Suebee Co-Op, the nation’s oldest and largest honey packer and seller, for a response to these allegations and to learn where it gets its honey. The co-op did not respond to repeated calls and emails for comment. Calls and emails to other major honey sellers also were unreturned.
EU Won’t Accept Honey from India
Much of this questionable honey was officially banned beginning June 2010 by the 27 countries of the European Union and others. But on this side of the ocean, the FDA checks few of the thousands of shipments arriving through 22 American ports each year.
According to FDA data, between January and June, just 24 honey shipments were stopped from entering the country. The agency declined to say how many loads are inspected and by whom.
However, during that same period, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that almost 43 million pounds of honey entered the U.S. Of that, the Department of Commerce said 37.7 million pounds came from India, the same honey that is banned in the EU because it contained animal medicine and lead and lacked the proper paperwork to prove it didn’t come from China.
Read the rest of the article by Andrew Schneider here