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National Bee Farm-Level Biosecurity Standard
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Why a National Standard?

The National Bee Farm-level Biosecurity Standard forms the basis of a comprehensive voluntary program designed to provide practical guidance for owners or managers involved in the three main Canadian bee sectors: honey bees, alfalfa leafcutting 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, and the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists. Funding was supplied by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada under Growing Forward.

The Canadian bee industry has practised farm-level biosecurity for many years. The objective of a national standard is to provide a consistent, country-wide approach to the implementation of biosecurity practices for both small- and large-scale operations. The development of farm-level biosecurity standards is a national initiative within and across agriculture industries, including both animals and plants. Beekeeping was identified as a priority sector for developing a voluntary farm-level biosecurity standard.

Value of the Canadian Bee Industry

CANPOLIN, the Canadian Pollination Initiative, identifies Canada as the world's 12th largest producer of honey. The 2010 Canadian honey crop was valued at $146 million. An estimated 35,000 tonnes were produced by nearly 7700 beekeepers.Footnote 1 Average honey production in Canada is about 60 kg per hive, which is more than twice the world average. Bee products (e.g. wax) and sales of bees and equipment are also important economic contributors.

In addition to the value of Canadian honey and bee products, many crops are reliant on pollination by managed bee species. Canada has seen rapid growth in pollination-dependent crops such as fruits and vegetables. The annual contribution of honey bee pollination to crop value is estimated at $1.3 to $1.7 billion annually, which is 10 to 20 times that of the value of honeyFootnote 2.

The pollination value of other bees, including alfalfa leafcutting bees and bumblebees, is more difficult to estimate but is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. In Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, alfalfa leafcutting bees are used to pollinate alfalfa seed fields a crop that is valued at $40 million. Alfalfa leafcutting bees also provide about half of the pollination required for hybrid canola seed production, resulting in a crop valued at $325 million in farm gate receipts annually, along with other legume seed crops and lowbush blueberries.

Bumblebees may be used to pollinate 25 different crops, including fruit (especially berries), vegetable, and some seed crops. It is estimated that 95% of bumblebees are used to pollinate greenhouse tomatoes and peppers in Canada, crops that together are valued at $800 million annually.Footnote 3 CANPOLIN estimates bumblebee pollination of greenhouse tomatoes at about 12% of the value of the greenhouse tomato crop in Ontario.Footnote 4

Who is this Document For?

The National Standard has been developed as a tool for all people and businesses handling and keeping bees, including honey bees, alfalfa leafcutting bees, and bumblebees. For each sector, a producer guide provides detailed information on how to meet target outcomes described in the National Standard.

What is Biosecurity and Why is it Important?

Farm-level biosecurity is a series of management practices that are 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 has a weakness, or where biosecurity measures are not fully implemented, it provides a route by which pests may enter or remain in a bee population.

The risk of exposure of healthy bees to pests occurs when infected or infested bees, or equipment, 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 facility design), and timely treatment interventions are necessary to mitigate these risks.

What are the Benefits?

Some of the Benefits of enhanced biosecurity management to the industry and individual beekeeping operations may be

  • improved food security through the supply of healthy crop pollinators
  • better production and pollination by healthier bees
  • reduced losses and economic impacts from pests
  • reduced risk of exposure, introduction and spread of pests
  • saving time and money on treatments and pest management
  • improved domestic and international marketability of bees and bee products
  • possible continuation or early resumption of interprovincial and international trade in the event of a serious outbreak
  • a marketing advantage if selling bees or used equipment or providing pollination services
  • improved treatment efficacy and pest management effectiveness
  • reduced chance of developing treatment resistance
  • reduced chance of devastation from introducing a new biosecurity risk.

Document Development

Background work for the National Standard and respective producer guides prioritized those biosecurity interventions that have the greatest impact on risk reduction and on the spread of contagious pests. The National Standard and sector Producer Guides are based on clear and scientifically justified principles. They detail a range of measures that are intended to prevent pests from entering or leaving a location where bees are kept. The Standard addresses management practices that promote general bee health.

A set of target outcomes, described in this standard, were developed with significant contributions from representatives of the various beekeeping sectors, including the Bee Biosecurity Advisory Committee (BeeBAC), whose membership represents all potential users of this document. (Appendix A lists the BeeBAC representatives.) BeeBAC identified areas of practical effective controls, using an objective, impartial approach that drew on published research, existing regulations, recognized management practice manuals, and treatment recommendations.

Development of the Standard and producer guides involved participation, consultation, and review from the following:

  • all provincial apiarists
  • producer associations
  • the Canadian Honey Council (CHC)
  • alfalfa leafcutting bee industry associations (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba)
  • bumblebee industry experts and researchers
  • the CFIA's Office of Animal Biosecurity

Direct producer input was achieved through:

  • a series of on-farm case studies.
  • comprehensive management practice benchmark consultations. All identified active producers in the honey bee and alfalfa leafcutting bee sectors in Canada were invited to participate. Over 600 honey beekeepers (10% of over 6000 beekeepers) and 86 alfalfa leafcutting bee producers participated (28% of over 300 producers).
  • selected interviews with suppliers and users of bumblebees for pollination of greenhouse and field crops.
  • selected participation in document review teams.

How Should this Document be Used?

The Canadian bee industry is a broad target audience that includes the hobbyist, large-scale commercial honey producers, custom pollinators who use honey bees or alfalfa leafcutting bees, and greenhouse operators. Understandably, not all of the principles in this standard or the producer guides will be applicable or practical for every situation. Keeping this in mind, the National Standard has been organized into two sections:

  • Bee Health Management
  • Operations Management

Each section is subsequently divided into subsections that are introduced by a target outcome.

Each target outcome represents a goal for all those who manage bees: attempt to protect their bees from the introduction and spread of pests. Each section is summarized with a brief description, a statement of the risks associated with each target outcome, and examples of management strategies to achieve the target outcome.

The glossary defines certain terms that are used within the text.

Readers are encouraged to refer to the respective producer guides for a detailed description of these practices, producer tools (i.e. suggested record-keeping templates, self-evaluation checklist) and resource lists.

All who manage bees should address biosecurity in each component of their operation. For those who are new to the concept of biosecurity, have limited resources, or are located where it is impractical or applicable to fully achieve each of the target outcomes, the three producer guides provide a set of examples of practices that can be implemented to meet the target outcomes.

The bee industry is dynamic. New strategies, products, and techniques to combat pests will evolve as the science behind managing bees continues to advance. New biosecurity risks will emerge. This document should therefore be considered a living document. The basic principles described in this standard and accompanying producer guides will apply into the future. It is the responsibility of producers to continually update their knowledge and consider current recommendations when implementing biosecurity management practices within their operation.

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