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National Bee Farm-level Biosecurity

By Forrest Scharf, PAg, Provincial Specialist, Fruit Crops; and Graham Parsons, PAg, MSc, Provincial Specialist, Pollinator Biosecurity

Haskap pollination
Haskap Pollination May 16, 2019.
There are various biosecurity initiatives that are being implemented in Canada. One program that directly relates to fruit production is the National Bee Farm-Level Biosecurity Standard. It was designed to provide practical guidance for owners or managers involved in the three main Canadian bee sectors; honey bees, alfalfa leaf-cutting bees and bumblebees. The Standard was developed in partnership with representatives from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the Canadian Honey Council, on behalf of provincial beekeeping and honey producer associations, provincial apiarists (PAs) and the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists (CAPA).

Biosecurity is a series of management practices designed to minimize the introduction and spread of disease causing pathogens, parasites, insect pests and predators, referred to collectively as pests, onto, within and beyond the farm. An effective biosecurity program is based on the understanding and application of measures to minimize the transmission of pests in animal and plant populations, including their introduction (bioexclusion), spread within the populations (biomanagement) and release (biocontainment). When a component of the program is weak, or when biosecurity measures are not fully implemented, it provides a route by which pests can enter or remain in a bee population.

The risk of exposure of healthy bees to pests occurs when infected or infested bees, contaminated equipment or feed are introduced to an operation. This can occur through intentional introductions or unintentional mixing of bees from other operations. Within an operation, pests can be spread through handling or sharing of water and feed sources. Training, monitoring, preventative management practices, including equipment and facilities design, and timely treatment interventions are necessary to mitigate these risks.

Implementation of the standards and recommended practices could benefit a grower through enhancing pollination activity, bee reproduction and controlling nuisance pests leading to easier overall management of bees. Avoiding unnecessary management expenditures through appropriate pest monitoring can reduce time spent on hive disposal, disinfection, and replacement. It can also reduce the need for culling equipment and supplies.

Proper implementation of biosecurity protocols can reduce risk of exposure, introduction and spread of pests. This lessens the chance of devastation from introducing a new biosecurity risk. In addition; early detection of biosecurity risks enables more effective containment and control. It also improves the ability to trace-back the sources of pests and apply management practices to other at-risk bees.

Canada's National Bee Farm-Level Biosecurity Standard is available on the CFIA website.

It's important to note that in reference to the invigilation and regulation of honey bee (Apis mellifera) imports into Saskatchewan, the following rules have been established and are consistent with federal import regulations:

No matter what size of operation you have, you must register your honey bees with the Provincial Apiarist. Registration is free and the Provincial Apiarist will help you keep your bees healthy and in compliance. For more information, please email Geoff Wilson, provincial specialist, apiculture or by phone 306-953-2304.

Import protocols for honey bees are subject to change, but until new regulations come into play, importers must:

  • Obtain inspection reports. Inspection reports must be signed by a provincial apiarist, bee inspector or another individual with the authority under the bees/apiaries act of the province of origin.
  • Provide inspection records to the Saskatchewan Provincial Apiarist at least one week prior to imports entering Saskatchewan.
  • Obtain permits. An import permit will be provided by the Saskatchewan Provincial Apiarist upon satisfactory completion of health certificates.
  • Ensure certification. The apiary of origin must be certified free from honey bee diseases. Bee colonies will be examined as follows:
    • Africanized genetics. The zone of origin must have been designated by Canada as free from reports of the African honey bees (Apis mellifera scuttellata), and Africanized honey bees’ hybrids including European honey bee hybrids with Africanized bees.
    • Asian genetics. The zone of origin must have been designated by Canada as free from reports of the Asian honey bee (Apis cerana) and Asian honey bee hybrids.
    • Honey bee diseases. The apiary must be certified free from American Foulbrood (AFB), European Foulbrood (EFB), and varroa mites (Varroa destructor).

In bee operations that have more than 500 colonies, 60 colonies from four apiaries are required to be inspected. In a 100 to 500-colony operation, 40 colonies from four apiaries are required to be inspected. In bee operations with fewer than 100 colonies, the number of colonies inspected will be determined using appropriate epidemiological principles for detection at the five per cent level.

  • Inspection for AFB, EFB and varroa mites must occur within 30 days prior to export.
  • Colonies may be eligible for export if no clinical evidence of AFB, EFB or Varroa mites was found.
  • Bee colonies will be examined for AFB and EFB. Visual examination of brood for symptoms of AFB or EFB is required. Bee colonies used in queen production and mating apiaries must be free from visible clinical evidence of AFB or EFB.
  • If either disease is found, colonies will not be eligible for export.
  • At least three brood frames per hive must be inspected. A report must be provided by the provincial apiarist in the exporting province indicating the presence or absence of AFB resistant to Oxytetracycline and Tylosin.
  • Presence of resistant forms of AFB may result in denial of the permit or quarantine upon arrival in Saskatchewan.
  • Varroa mites. Colonies must be assessed by alcohol washing of bee samples (200-300 bees per colony). The sample of bees must be placed in a basket and immersed in a solution of alcohol, and the basket should be shaken for a period of at least two minutes.
    • If Varroa mites are not detected or are under one per cent (one mite per 100 bees tested), honey bee colony shipments will be allowed.
    • If Varroa mites are found at levels greater than one per cent, bee colonies must be treated with a product registered in Canada.
    • Treated colonies must be re-tested to confirm that the level of Varroa is below one per cent.

The premises must be certified free of small hive beetle (SHB) (Aethina tumida). The bees must originate from a region in Canada free of SHB.

  • The bees must be shipped by the most direct and appropriate route from the point of export to the address of destination in Saskatchewan.
  • The shipment may be ordered removed from Saskatchewan if the manner of shipping is found to be in contravention of transport regulations under the federal Health of Animals Regulations. For all forms of transport, suitable arrangements must be made for the feeding, watering and care of the bees during transportation.
  • A physical inspection of the imported bees may be required upon arrival in Saskatchewan.
  • Honey bees and associated colonies may be quarantined upon arrival to avoid introduction of diseases, resistant diseases and/or pests to areas of Saskatchewan free of those diseases/pests. In addition to the requirements of Saskatchewan, the importer must also comply with any additional requirements imposed by provinces that the honey bees transit through on route to their final destination.
  • The Saskatchewan Provincial Apiarist must be contacted prior to importation to obtain the current requirements. The importer is responsible for all costs incurred or associated with any testing or treatment of the bees that may be required under the import permit. The issuance of this permit does not relieve the owner or the importer of the obligation to comply with other relevant federal, provincial or municipal legislation or requirement.
  • Failure to comply with the provisions of The Health of Animals Act and Regulations, or Saskatchewan's Apiaries Act and Regulations will result in the forfeiture of the bees imported or in the removal of the bees from Saskatchewan, all without compensation to, and at the expense of, the importer.
  • Inspection records must be provided to the Saskatchewan Provincial Apiarist at least one week prior to the imports entering Saskatchewan.
  • An import permit will be provided by the Saskatchewan Provincial Apiarist upon satisfactory completion of health certifications.

In the case of insects other than honey bees, the CFIA has requirements and a permitting process in place for movement of insects. The document D-12-02: Import Requirements for Potentially Injurious Organisms (Other than Plants) to Prevent the Importation of Plant Pest in Canada provides the necessary information for people wishing to import other insects. Generally speaking, the organism, its source and destination, use purpose and an administrative fee will be required to import invertebrates. Those wishing to import invertebrates should contact CFIA and enquire about their situation.

For more information, please contact Graham Parsons, pollinator biosecurity specialist.

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