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Honey Bee Producer Guide to the National Bee Farm-level Biosecurity Standard
Section 1: Bee Health Management

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1.1 Bee Sources

Target Outcomes

Beekeepers minimize exposure to pests by introducing bee stocks of known health status. Sources are documented to enable traceability.


Bees may be sourced in various forms from within the beekeeper's own operation, from other beekeepers in the province, from other provinces, or imported from other countries. Each form and source of bees and queens represent varying degrees of risk for introducing pests to colonies. Bees may be introduced at the apiary level (i.e. to several colonies simultaneously) or to individual colonies.

Known health status means the bees have been inspected and/or tested to determine their health status by a recognized agency.

Table 1 illustrates the bee sources and management practices that may introduce pests with bees to another colony or to hive equipment.

Table 1 Sources and Management Practices
Purchased or Self-Raised Sources Management Practices
Queens, accompanied by five to six attendants are typically shipped in queen cages and plugged with queen candy. Equalizing is the practice of moving frames of brood and bees from one colony to another to make two or more colonies of equal strength (brood, bees, and honey).
Package bees are used to establish new colonies and replace winter losses. Packages usually weigh 1 or 1.5 kg and contain 8000 or 12,000 bees. Bees are shipped in either wooden or screened boxes with a sugar syrup feed source or in tubular containers with a gelled feeding source. Splitting is the practice of dividing a strong well-populated colony into two or three smaller ones and adding a queen to the new colonies.
Nucleus colonies or nucs consist of a smaller number of bees than a full-sized colony and usually include a queen, brood, honey, and pollen. Bees are shipped on comb in nucleus hives smaller boxes with fewer frames than standard hives. Swarms are a result of natural reproduction of a honey bee colony, leading to the creation of a new honey bee colony, in addition to the established colony. Hiving swarms may introduce pests and undesirable genetic traits through newly acquired drones that perpetuate swarming behaviour.
A full-sized colony is a complete unit, comprising a standard-sized hive box, frames with combs containing honey, pollen and brood, the queen and worker honey bees. Uniting is the practice of merging together two or more colonies into one colony to create a single stronger colony.

The Risks

Federal and provincial acts and regulations help to mitigate risks associated with bee introductions by requiring inspections and permits.

  • Pests may be present in or on bees, in hives, on queen cages, in package boxes, in other packing material, or in hive equipment (if whole or nucleus colonies are purchased – also referred to as on the comb). The health status of the acquired bees should be compatible with the desired health status of the operation and meet government regulations.
  • Importing bees from other regions, and particularly other countries, may present health risks, despite having import protocols in place to mitigate these risks (e.g. introducing new pests, along with populations of pests that are resistant to treatments registered for use in Canada).
  • Introducing new pests, as well as populations that are resistant to treatments registered for use in Canada.

Tables 2 and 3 outline biosecurity risks associated with various bee sources.

Table 2. Biosecurity risks: purchased or self-raised
Purchased or Self-Raised Source Source of Risk - Own Operation Source of Risk - Within Province Source of Risk - Other Provinces Source of Risk - Other Countries
Queens Variable risk – dependent on health history and status of parent colony. Low-risk relative to purchasing bees on comb or bulk bees. Reduced risk – if purchased from certified/inspected bee or breeders/queen producers Permit required Permit required
Package bees Not applicable Reduced risk – if purchased from a certified/inspected bee supplier Permit required Permit required
Full size and Nucleus colonies Variable risk – Comb may harbour pests that can be transferred within the operation. Dependent on health history and status of originating colony/apiary Variable risk - Comb may harbour pests. Dependent on health history and status of supplier Reduced risk – if purchased from a certified/inspected bee supplier with proper documentation Permit required Permit required
Table 3. Biosecurity risks: management practices
Management Practices Source of Risk - Own Operation Source of Risk - Within Province Source of Risk - Other Provinces Source of Risk - Other Countries
Hive a swarm Reduced risk if swarm is from same apiary with low chance of co-mixing High risk if swarm is from or comingled with another local beekeeper‘s bees with unknown health status, practices or from an unknown source Not applicable Not applicable
Uniting, equalizing, or splitting Reduced risk if bees are healthy and from same apiary with low chance of co-mixing Not applicable Not applicable Not applicable

Producer Benefits

The benefits of implementing biosecurity-recommended practices when acquiring bee stock are that there is a reduced

  • need for costly management and treatments at the time of, or subsequent to, introduction.
  • chance of developing resistance to treatment products.
  • risk of introducing pests if the beekeeper can trace the pest source back to its origin. Other colonies that might be affected can be quickly identified, with remedial action taken. The beekeeper can avoid that source or take preventative action before introduction if used in future.

Selecting bee stock with desirable genetic traits is an effective pest management strategy.

Recommended Practices

The management practices recommended in this section refer to raising bees, queens, and the purchase and introduction of bees from external sources.

1. Supplier and Stock Selection

a. Domestic
  1. Where available, purchase locally produced queens and nucs of known health status from certified or inspected suppliers or cooperatives. Consult supplier lists that are issued annually by some provincial apiarists or other honey bee regulating authority.
  2. Purchase bees from suppliers that you know and trust and those with established disease/pest management programs.
  3. Investigate unfamiliar suppliers before purchasing.
  4. Produce, or purchase queens and nucs from bee breeders that offer bee stock with desirable genetic traits.
  5. Re-queen on a regular basis, ideally every one to two years, with young queens to promote healthy bees.
  6. When bees are purchased from out of the province, obtain confirmation that the inspection by the designated originating authority was conducted as specified in the provincial and federal regulations before entry into the province.
b. Regulations and Compliance for Importing Bees (including queens, package bees, and nucleus colonies)
  1. Federal

    • Beekeepers must follow current federal import acts and regulations administered by the CFIA. Honey bees are defined as a regulated animal under the Health of Animals Regulations.
    • Bees must be imported under permit from CFIA - approved countries of origin andwith a CFIA - recognized health certificate from originating country.
  2. Provincial

    Beekeepers must

    • follow current provincial import and transport acts and regulations governing honey bees.
    • follow the requirements for registration in their province.
    • retain and make import records accessible.

2. Receiving and Placing Bees

  1. Bees may be introduced to hives, or whole colonies may be placed immediately if
    1. there is no provincial or regional directive in effect to quarantine new arrivals.
    2. the health status is known, and any additional requirements are met.
    3. introductions are segregated to separate apiaries.
  2. If bees are not introduced immediately, they can be kept in a sanitary, segregated, temperature-controlled storage facility upon receipt.
    1. Package bees and queens may safely be held in dark, temperature-controlled, properlyventilated storage for a short period before introduction.
    2. A segregated storage facility may be a separate building (e.g. a garage), room, or portion of aroom that is separated from other areas with a room divider.
    3. The segregated space is bee tight.
  3. Food stores are checked and supplemented with uncontaminated sugar syrup and irradiated pollenif necessary. (Refer to sections 1.2, 2.1, and 2.2 for more guidance on feeding.)

3. Inspection, Assessment, and Notification

  1. Prior to introduction or hive placement, each bee or hive lot is inspected for the following: deadbees, bee activity, and visual inspection for presence of pests.
  2. Beekeepers and staff are updated and trained to recognize pests that are both established and thosethat are not established in the operation. (Refer to section 2.9.)
  3. Beekeepers are aware of current developments and alerts, and follow emergency protocols that arerecommended by the provincial apiarist and/or industry organizations.

    Extra testing precautions are indicated when bees are derived from an unknown source.

  4. The beekeeper administers tests and detection methods, and/or collects and sends samples of beesto a provincial bee lab or facility that is CAPA ble of conducting bee diagnostic testing. Bees areheld in segregated storage or apiary until diagnosis is confirmed.
  5. Suspicion of pests that present a biosecurity risk triggers a response plan that provides guidance toindividuals on the appropriate procedures to follow.

4. Handling Introductions for Honey Bee Queens

  1. Place imported queens in any high-risk shipments into new queens' cages prior to introducing to the hives.
  2. Remove attendants before introducing queens.
  3. If needed, plug hive entrances, or use entrance excluders after introductions to avoid robbing, and possibly introducing pests, while the new colony gets established.

5. Sanitation

  1. Bees are introduced to new or disinfected hive equipment (e.g. combs may be treated byirradiation) prior to bee introduction. If your operation has a history of American foulbrood (AFB),use new foundation. Section 2.3 outlines the recommended methods for disinfecting contaminatedhive equipment prior to reuse.
  2. Take precautions to minimize the risk of spread of (potential) introduced pests through handling(e.g. gloves) and tools. (Refer to section 2.5.)
  3. Hold packing material that will be reused in a segregated area until it is disinfected by
    1. fumigation.
    2. bleach; follow recommendations for bleach concentration, length of time of treatment, andkeep material out of direct sunlight while being treated.
    3. other methods, as deemed appropriate.
  4. Destroy packing material that is not reusable by holding in a segregated area until transfer to anisolated burn site. Packing material should be disinfected before transporting if there is a risk ofspread during transport.
  5. Storage facilities and vehicles/equipment that held or handled bees that were confirmed orsuspected of harbouring pests should be disinfected prior to reuse. (Refer to section 2.7.)

6. Treatments

  1. Ensure that all treatments are in compliance with the Pest Control Products Act (Canada), the Health of Animals Act and Regulations, and with provincial regulations, if applicable.
  2. Preventative treatments should be applied before or after introduction only where indicated, andfollow annual provincial treatment recommendations and Integrated Pest Management guidelinesto limit the development of treatment resistance.
  3. Follow all product labels.

7. Monitoring

After introduction, check bee health status regularly, take the appropriate actions, update records, and toestablish cause, cross-reference the health status of other colonies that received bees from the samesource, if applicable.

If the cause is linked to bee source, notify the regulating authority and the supplier, so that investigation into the health of other beekeepers' colonies receiving bees from that source is initiated. (Also, refer to section 1.4.)

Record Keeping

A good method for tracking introductions (including splits) and recording treatments administered upon introduction is to use a colour-coding system or marking the hive lid.

Copies of records, including invoices, hive identification systems, and permits for imported bees should be kept for at least one year to enable traceback.

  1. Purchases are clearly identified on receipt by lot number(s) and the following information is recordedfor each lot:
    1. date received;
    2. name, address, and telephone number of supplier;
    3. number of queens, nuclei, package bees, or colonies;
    4. disease status if known (according to health-inspection certificate or supplierdeclaration/accompanying test results);
    5. date of inspection by originating authority;
    6. selling permit number (if applicable); and
    7. treatments given prior to shipment and when, if known.
  2. If re-queening, hiving a swarm, or equalizing, splitting, or uniting colonies with own stock, record
    1. parent colony;
    2. queen source;
    3. date introduced, split, or united;
    4. observed desirable traits;
    5. disease history or status (test results); and
    6. treatments given prior to introduction and when (if known).
  3. For all introductions, record
    1. the apiary and hive within which the bees are placed. Hives should have a unique identifier (e.g. acode);
    2. treatments given post shipment; and
    3. health assessments (observations and/or test results). (See section 1.4.)

1.2 Prevention: Minimizing Susceptibility to Pests

Target Outcomes

Beekeepers manage factors to reduce the bees' susceptibility to pests. A response is implemented when threshold levels are reached.


Honey bee health may be compromised by a number of susceptibility factors that can effectively be managed within the beekeeping operation. If a colony is weakened, the bees will be more vulnerable to infection or infestation, and less able to recover in response to treatments.

Other than the direct effects of pests on bee health, six factors that can increase bee susceptibly to pests are as follows:

  1. Weather and Environment: Bees should be protected from the impact of wind, temperature extremes, high humidity, and moisture build-up, both within and outside the hive. High temperatures, humidity, and poor ventilation within the hive contribute to the development of the swarming impulse, because the bees require more space to facilitate the evaporation of water from the nectar. Temperature and humidity also play a role in the effectiveness of mite removal by bees exhibiting hygienic traits. Poor conditions outside of the hive may inhibit flying, while lack of protection from extreme cold can lead to high winter losses.
  2. Nutritional: Bees must have access to adequate sources of carbohydrates, protein, lipids, vitamins, minerals, and water. Feed sources include nectar flow, pollen, honey reserves, and feed/water supplements. Bees may be malnourished if exposed to only one source of pollen for an extended period of time (i.e. if placed for custom pollination of a single crop). Feeding also helps with the successful introduction of package bees or queens. Supplemental fall feeding ensures adequate resources for overwintering.
  3. Disturbance: Bees are affected by movement (transportation to/from the field or relocation within the field) and handling through wrapping and unwrapping hives for winter protection, inspections, feed placement, and treatments. Bees must re-orient themselves to the new location once moved, and for long-distance east/west migratory beekeeping operations to a different time zone. Further distress may occur if robber bees are attracted during times of disturbance. Re-occurring nearby activities that are loud or create vibrations, such as the use of power mowing equipment, may also disturb bees. Non-human sources of disturbance include nuisance pests such as predatory wasps, mice (chewing), skunks, bears, and cattle.
  4. Pesticide Exposure: Bees may be affected by direct exposure to pesticide applications, including insecticide, herbicide, or fungicide sprays or spray drift that is absorbed through the body or respiratory system, or by ingestion. Bees may be affected by the build-up of pesticides within the comb or food stores through the collection of nectar and pollen from the main crop, cover crop, or flowering weeds that have been exposed to pesticides. Exposure to pest control products with residual toxicity and the cumulative effects of multiple pesticides may present significant risk, as there could be a chemical interaction effect. The degree of toxicity to bees is impacted by such factors as the chemical product group, formulation, application rate, and temperature conditions. Bees may be killed outright or show signs of bee poisoning that subsequently weaken the colony.
  5. Colony Strength: A weak colony may be a sign of the above factors, as well as a source of continuing susceptibility of the colony to pests. Over-manipulation of the colony (e.g. excessive splitting or equalizing prior to placement for pollination) can further weaken the colony. A strong colony contains a healthy young queen, brood, workers, and drones in the correct balance for the time of year.
  6. A susceptibility threshold is a measurable level of a factor at which intervention should be taken to limit negative impacts on bee health and economic loss. In this context, examples of susceptibility thresholds that could be established by the beekeeper include
    • weather and environment: temperature, humidity, or carbon dioxide levels that are measured within a hive, storage facility, or transport truck.
    • nutrition: a measure of food stores (e.g. hive weight, number of filled honey frames).
    • pesticide exposure: analysis of concentration of a pesticide in the comb.
    • colony strength: a measure of bee population, percentage of filled and capped brood frames.

The susceptibility threshold may vary under conditions when multiple factors are present.

The Risks

The risks associated with each factor varies from minor declines in honey production, suppressed egg laying/brood formation, to swarming, drifting, and robbing behaviour, to high winter losses and dwindling bee populations in early spring. These factors can shorten the life-span of the bees and therefore the size of the colony's population. Drifting and robbing behaviour may, in turn, lead to the introduction of pests to the colony.

The degree of risk is associated with the

  • intensity, duration, and time of year of exposure to the susceptibility factor.
  • ability of the bees to recover after the source is removed.
  • combined effects of more than one susceptibility factor.
  • compounding effect of exposure to pests which, in turn, causes greater susceptibility to other pests.

Bee ability to recover from most forms of mild, periodic, and short duration distress is relatively good, with the exception of some forms of pesticide exposure that can cause permanent damage or immediate death.

Producer Benefits

The benefits of implementing biosecurity-recommended practices to identify and reduce susceptibility factors affecting bees are

  • reduced chance that an unnecessary treatment could be administered, due to an incorrect assumption that the signs were caused by pest.
  • improved ability for bees to resist or recover from infections and infestations.
  • reduced incidence of developing resistance to treatment products.
  • reduced winter losses.

Recommended Practices

1. Weather and Environment Susceptibility Factors

The negative effects of wind, temperature, and moisture can be mitigated by apiary and storage facility set-up, shelter, hive design and management, and temperature and humidity control.

a. In the field
  1. Locate apiaries with a southern sun exposure.
  2. Choose apiary locations that are not prone to flooding. Avoiding low areas will also protect colonies from night-time settling of colder air.
  3. Provide wind shelter for hive equipment at ground level.
  4. Orient entrances away from the prevailing winds.
  5. Keep entrances clear of vegetation.
  6. Elevate bottom boards off the ground, using pallets or stands to improve air circulation and to prevent moisture build-up.
  7. Use tilted bottom boards to facilitate drainage.
  8. Use light-coloured paint on the outside of hives to reflect heat.
  9. Provide upper entrances for hives to allow water vapour escape and to prevent ice formation in winter.
  10. If overwintering in the field, close screened bottoms, and wrap hives with clean well-oinsulated wraps. Remove when night temperatures are above 0C. Modify overwintering protection accordingly for wet, mild conditions.
  11. Provide additional shelter from cold north winds if wintering outdoors.
b. Within the hive
  1. Avoid crowding by providing enough space.
  2. Remove entrance reducers.
  3. Provide entrance mats and crack lids or supers; set ahead slightly to allow more air flow. Using upper entrances will reduce frost build-up.
  4. Use foundation and queen excluders judiciously to avoid forming a barrier to upward expansion.
  5. Bottom super honey-bound colonies.
  6. Take remedial action if excess moisture, ice, or mould is observed on the inner cover, inner walls, frames or bottom boards, or if the interior of the hive is too dry during winter.
c. In the indoor wintering facility
  1. Control temperature at 4°C–7°C.
  2. Provide air circulation and ventilation to maintain relative humidity at 50%–70%.
  3. Exclude as much light as possible, and use red bulbs.
  4. Stack hives in perpendicular rows to the air duct, with rows spaced about 1 meter apart to facilitate air movement.
  5. Stack in a way that facilitates air circulation around each hive.
  6. Elevate bottom hive off the floor using pallets or stands.

2. Nutritional Susceptibility Factors

a. For healthy bees, ensure access to
  1. a good quality carbohydrate source (nectar or supplement). Feeding honey or cappings back to bees presents a risk of disease transmission.
  2. pollen or pollen substitutes (protein, lipids, vitamins and minerals). Supplementary pollen feed should be free from disease.
  3. water.
  4. resins and gums from trees and other vegetation that are necessary for propolis production.
b. Feed bees, using unexposed feeders

to control label dosages of registered honey bee medications and to prevent robbing and potential disease transmission. The same applies for supplemental water.

c. Monitor and provide supplemental feed and/or water, as required
  1. to new queens, bees during shipment, and at time of introduction.
  2. in early spring before unwrapping.
  3. in late spring before nectar flow.
  4. when nectar/pollen flow is curtailed by crop conditions or of short duration (e.g. canola).
  5. during inclement weather when bees may not forage.
  6. during drought or when/where natural sources of water are limited.
  7. after splitting.
  8. in fall before wintering.

3. Disturbance Susceptibility Factors

The effects of disturbance cannot be completely avoided but they can be minimized using common sense handling and management.

a. During handling and transport:
  1. Handle bees and bee equipment with a gentle approach.
  2. Smoke the hives prior to handling to inhibit flying.
  3. Minimize the time that hive boxes are open or unwrapped during inspection, treatment, feeding, or removal of honey supers.
  4. Ideally, move to summer apiary sites in the spring when package bees are still in the brood chamber.
  5. Avoid moving in winter.
  6. Manage temperature, humidity, and air circulation to prevent carbon dioxide buildup while in transit.
  7. Move at night, whenever possible.
  8. If daytime movement on warm days is necessary, use top screens to allow for ventilation and clustering space for the bees.
  9. Load hives with the frames parallel to the truck to minimize rocking.
  10. Stabilize the hives and frames during movement and transit (e.g. through hive design to facilitate stable stacking, fasten frames using spacers or self-spacing frames to prevent slippage, use tie downs in the truck).
  11. Ensure adequate feed and water if transporting long distances.
  12. Avoid moving distances under 5 km in the field. Short distances can confuse the bees, causing them to return to the old site. Alternatively, small operators may move bees short distances each day over several days.
  13. Lightly stuff the entrances to hives with grass once unloaded in the field to slow down foraging and to allow for orientation.
  14. Minimize long hauls and the number of movements per year, if possible.

Minimize disturbance caused by noise, vibration, and jostling by carefully selecting the apiary site and by limiting the use of power equipment such as mowers around the hives. Protect the site from nearby exposure to sources of mechanical disruption, as well as animals, including cattle.

b. Monitor apiary locations in winter for
  1. scratches or chew marks on the hive or winter wraps.
  2. tracks in the snow from humans, animals, or machinery.
  3. presence of mouse nests and chewed comb.

In addition, refer to section 2.8 for methods to manage nuisance pests of honey bees.

4. Pesticide Exposure Susceptibility Factors

a. Avoid pesticide exposure:
  1. Have access to annual provincial crop management recommendations for common pests in the area of the apiary. Reference which products and formulations are harmful to honey bees and for how long after application.
  2. Keep current on other pesticides that may be approved for emergency use.
  3. Maintain regular communication with local farmers and landowners.
  4. Discuss pesticide application plans and hazards when making agreements to place bees on other farmers' crops.
  5. Choose apiary sites away from intensely sprayed areas.
  6. Monitor spray programs in the areas where your hives are placed, including use on crops, public right of ways, industrial yards, ditches, parks, and golf courses.
  7. Identify apiary locations to applicators.
  8. Clearly post your name, address, telephone number, and beekeeper registration number (or identifying information required according to the Apiary or Bee Act) at each apiary location, enabling local farmers or pesticide applicators to easily contact you.
  9. Monitor weather conditions when pesticide spraying occurs, and take extra precautions to protect bees (e.g. from spray drift if windy conditions, or if cool weather is expected following application, because residues will remain toxic to bees for longer periods in cool weather).
  10. Provide a safe alternate water source to discourage bees from drinking off plants (e.g. corn leaf axils) that may harbour contaminated droplets.
  11. Remove honey bee colonies as soon as pollination is complete and before any post-bloom insecticides are applied (e.g. in orchards).
  12. Follow the product label when using registered pest control products, and never use pesticide strips where combs are stored.
  13. Avoid or use extreme caution when applying any pesticide around the apiary or at your storage or extraction facilities.
b. Consider addressing these critical aspects of pesticide application with the beekeeper, farmer, and/or applicator:
  1. name of product applied, along with a copy of the current pesticide label;
  2. night-time, late evening, or (less desirable) early morning spraying;
  3. identification of buffer zones around your apiaries that are not to be sprayed;
  4. use of products, formulations, or cultural methods that are less harmful to bees for use if there is an option;
  5. avoidance of application on crops or weeds when in bloom, which is regulated for some crops;
  6. use of ground versus aerial spraying; and
  7. prior to spraying with insecticides, mowing flowering cover crops, such as clover or weeds that are subject to bee foraging.
c. Mark the hives and monitor bees for the following if exposure is suspected:
  1. large numbers of dead bees at the hive entrance
  2. dwindling adult population
  3. paralyzed, stupefied, unable to walk or fly properly
  4. nectar regurgitation/wet looking
  5. swollen abdomen
  6. confused or aggressive behaviour
  7. disruption to laying/queen death
  8. dead brood

If pesticide poisoning is suspected, collect and freeze samples, record information, report to the provincial authorities and PMRA through the Pesticide Incident Reporting Program, and consider methods such as litigation to recover losses.

5. Weakened Colony Susceptibility Factors

a. Maintaining strong colonies is integral to successful beekeeping. Refer to beekeeping manuals for specific techniques.
  1. A colony should consist of at least seven to eight frames of bees at the end of the season to ensure survival.
  2. Requeen with resistant stock at least every two years. More frequent requeening may be necessary for colonies that are wintered outdoors.
  3. Splitting strong healthy colonies addresses overcrowding and maintains an optimal balance of brood, workers, and drones for the time of year.
  4. In spring, add or remove empty frames as needed to provide adequate space in anticipation of a split or re-arrange brood frames (if double brood frames are used) to encourage even egg laying. In summer, add additional honey supers as needed.
  5. Avoid providing more brood frames than are required for the population. This increases the hygienic housekeeping burden on the worker bees.
  6. Consider introductions to weak colonies via package bees, capped brood, or uniting with a captured swarm or another weak colony. It is imperative that the source of the weakness be understood and dealt with to avoid perpetuating the cause.
  7. Avoid harvesting pollen or propolis from weak or struggling colonies.

Colony strength monitoring, particularly in May and September, is necessary to initiate remedial action.

6. Preventative Chemical Treatments

Integrated Pest Management recommendations and annual provincial treatment recommendations should be followed to limit the development of treatment resistance. Preventative chemical treatments are not a substitute for minimizing susceptibility to pests, monitoring, culling brood frames, sanitation, or other methods to protect bees from exposure to pests.

7. Queen and nuc Production

  1. Care for queens and nucs by
    1. using care when picking up to avoid damage.
    2. introducing or shipping as soon as possible. Ideally, storage and shipping time should be no more than two weeks (one week is recommended).
    3. keeping in a cool, well-ventilated dark place with no drafts when in storage.
    4. covering queen cages with a piece of paper and by avoiding mesh-to-mesh contact between two cages, because queens may damage each other through the mesh.
    5. providing feed and water.

Record Keeping

Record-keeping recommendations focus on information that may flag the potential for negative impact on bee health, allowing for appropriate remedial action. This information can also rule out causes that would otherwise trigger ineffective and costly treatments.

Ideally record the following information:

  1. basic indicators of colony strength;
  2. a colony strength rating (e.g. a number on a scale);
  3. supplemental feed and water;
  4. apiary placement and nectar source;
  5. disturbance observations and cause;
  6. indoor overwintering facility (temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide monitoring);
  7. queen (age, traits, and source); use the international colour code for thorax marking to identify queen age; and
  8. details of suspected pesticide poisoning.

1.3 Prevention: Minimizing Exposure

Target Outcomes

Beekeepers minimize direct and indirect contact with infected or infested bees.


The first line of defence against infection or infestation of healthy bees is to minimize exposure to bee pests. This includes direct contact between bees either through planned bee introductions to healthy colonies or unplanned mixing, as well as indirect contact through contaminated equipment, feed, water, pollen, and handling. Mites passed from bee to bee may also carry over viruses.

Planned contact refers to direct bee-to-bee contact; an infected or infested bee passes the pest directly to a healthy bee or brood within the same colony. Planned contact can also occur through practices such as equalizing colonies before placing for custom pollination.

Unplanned mixing occurs when bees drift or transfer to colonies other than their own, often because they lack visual cues or are otherwise disoriented or displaced; for example by wind or movement. Disturbance through handling can also trigger drifting. Mixing is more likely to occur when bees need to expand their foraging range, because of lack of nectar and pollen or competition from other colonies. Food stores in the colony, open supplemental feeding, and honey spills attract bees from other colonies or places where other bees frequent. This is referred to as robbing behaviour. Mixing may occur during transport if bees cluster on the outside of the hive. Mixing may be with honey bees from other colonies or with another species such as bumblebees.

Indirect contact occurs when an infected or infested host bee leaves behind a pest on some surface or in some material such as feed, pollen, water, or feces, providing that the pest survives long enough to be transferred to another bee.

The Risks

Table 4 depicts the associated risks with the most common pests of honey bees in Canada. Beekeepers should also be aware of new biosecurity risks in their area.

Table 4 Honey bees in Canada: Common pests and risks
Pathogen, Parasite, or Insect Pest Biology Direct Contact Indirect Contact with Feed and Water Indirect Contact with Surfaces or Tools


Paenibacillus larvae

Larvae ingest contaminated food from nurse bees and are susceptible three days after hatching. Housecleaning bees spread bacterial spores via their mouthparts when they exchange food. High: when larvae are feeding, exchanging food between adult bees in the colony or exposure via robbing and drifting High: brood food/honey stores and contaminated pollen Extremely high: Spores remain viable indefinitely (70+ years) on surfaces and contaminated comb. A living host is not needed.


Melissococcus plutonius

Larvae under two days old are infected when they consume brood food. All three castes of the brood may be affected. Spread is the same as for AFB. High: when larvae are feeding, exchanging food between adult bees in the colony or exposure via robbing and drifting High: brood food/honey stores and contaminated pollen High: however, EFB does not survive long on surfaces


Ascosphaera apis

Spores are spread in food, water, combs, or by drifting bees. Larvae-ingest contaminated pollen, water, and nectar or honey and are most susceptible 3–4 days after hatching. Low High Low: however, spores can remain infectious for at least 15 years; fungus growth will occur in cool moist conditions
Sacbrood virus Nurse bees ingest virus-laden fluids when removing infected dead larvae from their cells. The virus is spread throughout the colony when the nurse bees feed one- to two-day-old larvae, when food is exchanged between adult bees, or when contaminated food stores are accessed. High High Low
Other viruses DWV, KBV, APV, IAPV, BQCV, and others Numerous other viruses can infect honey bees and can be associated with the presence of other pests High: when associated with Varroa infestation and bees are more susceptible Low Low

Nosema Disease

Nosema apis

Nosema ceranae

A single celled protozoan that forms resistant spores that remains viable for long periods. Spores in feces from infected bees or contaminated water/pollen are ingested by adult bees, and germinate in the midgut. Low High: in water and pollen High: through contact with contaminated feces or dead bee residue deposited on surfaces or water spills that have been contaminated by bee feces. Spores can be viable on these surfaces for long periods of time.

Varroa mite

Varroa destructor

Females detach from their adult host inside the hive and lay eggs in brood cells, just before capping. Newly emerged bees carry the mites and transfer them to other bee colonies through drifting, robbing or bee to bee contact.

Extremely high: especially between queens/workers and drone brood within the colony

Excessive drone comb presents a risk of infestation

Moderately high when infected adults mix with other bees outside of the colony

Low Low: Varroa only lives 7-10 days away from a host bee.

Tracheal mite

Acarapis woodi

Female mites are passed from the hair tips of one host bee to another, then enter the tracheal system where they feed and lay eggs High: between older bees to young bees within a colony and via drifting bees between colonies Low Low

Small hive beetle

Aethina tumida

Female beetles lay eggs on or near the combs. Eggs hatch in two to four days. Larvae (grubs) feed on pollen, bee brood and honey for 10-16 days then pupate in the soil for 15-30 days. Adult beetles fly back to the hive, can fly many kilometres, can live up to six months, are attracted to fruit, and can winter inside the cluster of a honey bee colony. None None High: can be transferred through comb exchange, equipment or with imported bee packaging material. SHB can multiply rapidly in the extraction facility where they are attracted by honey spills.

Greater Wax Moth (western)

Galleria mellonella

Lesser Wax Moth

Achroia grisella

Moth eggs are laid in cracks between frames, lids and boxes. Caterpillars (larvae) tunnel through wax combs and feed on pollen, honey and debris until they attach between supers or under the hive lid to pupate. None None Extremely high

AFB = American foulbrood; APV = acute paralysis virus; BQCV = black queen cell virus; DWV = deformed wing virus; EFB = European foulbrood; IAPV = Israel acute paralysis virus; KBV = Kashmir bee virus; SHB = small hive beetle

Producer Benefits

The benefits of minimizing exposure to pests are

  • saving time and money on treatments.
  • reducing the chance of developing treatment resistance.
  • requiring less need for equipment or bee destruction.
  • increasing honey production by having stronger colonies.
  • improving domestic and international marketability of honey bees, bee products, and pollination services.
  • possibly continuing inter-provincial and international trade in the event of a serious outbreak.

Recommended Practices

1. Hive Equipment Design

  1. Several equipment design considerations can reduce exposure to bee diseases and pests:
    1. Install screened bottom boards. Incorporate the appropriate mesh screens into bottom boards. The mesh should be sufficiently above the bottom board to allow Varroa mites to fall through the screen and become stuck on installed sticky traps.
    2. Use queen excluders to confine the queen to the brood chamber. Failure to use a queen excluder that is tight fitting and maintained in good condition could result in eggs being deposited in honey combs, leading to the spread of disease through cross-contamination when supers are exchanged between hives.
    3. Replace at least 20 percent (ideally one-third) of brood frames every year with new frames, newly drawn comb, and foundation. This practice will help to reduce the level of spores and acaricide residues in the hive.
    4. Use unexposed feeders.

2. Apiary Placement

More intense management is required in areas of intensive custom pollination or where bees from more than one apiary (your own or another beekeepers) can mix in local foraging areas.

  1. Be aware of local conditions (weather, soil type, susceptibility factors) and common pests in areas into which you are moving bees for pollination, especially if they differ from those in your home base. Take extra precautions when moving bees to and from these areas to avoid spreading pests into other areas.
  2. Work with other beekeepers to create an awareness of the health status, and disease and pest management practices of adjacent apiaries.
  3. Maximize the distance between apiaries.
  4. Follow applicable pollination stocking rate recommendations.
  5. If the health status of the neighbours' bees is suspect or conditions exist that encourage drifting, robbing, or swarming behaviour:
    1. Decline to set up, or remove your hives.
    2. Increase apiary placement distances.
    3. Increase monitoring frequency and sampling (see Section 1.4).
    4. Provide unexposed, supplemental feed, as necessary, to prevent your own bees from drifting or robbing.
    5. Call an inspector if necessary.

3. Prevent Robbing

These are examples of robbing prevention techniques to follow when possible:

  1. Clean up honey/sugar syrup spills immediately.
  2. Cover honey spills, exposed bee combs, and wax.
  3. Use unexposed feeders.
  4. Minimize leaks in feeders/pails.
  5. Minimize the time that hives are open when inspected.
  6. Minimize the opening of hives unless a problem is suspected, except if monitoring is needed.
  7. Open hives and remove supers in early morning before flying.
  8. Use bee escape boards.
  9. Keep bee feed tightly sealed in bee-tight facility.
  10. Remove old hive equipment/discarded frames that could attract other bees.
  11. Avoid placing apiaries near landfills or garbage dumps.
  12. Remove abandoned vehicles/farm equipment etc. that could provide a nesting area for other bees.
  13. If wintering outdoors, reduce bottom hive entrance before feeding begins.
  14. Limit the number of colonies placed in a single bee yard.
  15. Separate the apiary or overwintering facility from honey extraction, wax rendering, or storage areas that contain feed or honey (your own and your neighbours)
  16. Have bee-tight honey extraction, wax rendering, or storage areas (e.g. use bee-escape devices).
  17. Remove weak, queenless, or unsustainable hives.

4. Prevent Drifting

  1. Examples of drifting prevention techniques are as follows:
    1. Maximize distance between apiaries, and between hives and hive rows within an apiary.
    2. Limit the number of colonies in an apiary.
    3. Provide visual cues.
    4. Change the angle of the entrances:

      • irregularly shaped hive layout (e.g. avoid lining up in long rows along a straight fence line)
      • opposite facing entrances
      • colours/patterns
      • strategic placement near landmarks
    5. Regulate hive movement (e.g. avoid repositioning short distances).
    6. Take precautions to prevent shaken or stray bees from entering other colonies when shaking bees in front of new hives or removing bees from honey supers.
    7. Orientate hive rows, such that prevailing winds do not concentrate bees at the end of the row.

5. Swarm Prevention

  1. Actively manage colonies to prevent swarming frequently in the spring and periodically throughout the summer and fall.
    1. Inspect and remove swarm cells every 9–10 days.
    2. Place populous colonies in areas with early main nectar flow and add sufficient supers.
    3. Requeen colonies with a queen strain that has a genetically low propensity to swarm.
    4. Requeen with a younger queen.
    5. Ensure the queen has a broad space to lay.
    6. Reverse brood boxes in the spring.

6. Exercise Caution when Splitting, Uniting or Equalizing Colonies

  1. Monitor and treat, if necessary, before performing these manipulations.
  2. Avoid mixing bees from different apiaries or those with differing health status.
  3. Avoid introducing healthy bees to contaminated equipment or vice versa.

7. Minimize bees flying away during transport, and reduce exposure to other bees

  1. Respect active quarantine, breeding, or research districts in the province.
  2. Transport at night.
  3. Use nets or top screens at all times during transport (day and night), if transporting by open truck. Clean nets to remove dead bees and debris between use.
  4. Turn entrances in toward the middle of the truck, but be cautious regarding restricted air flow.
  5. Use entrance screens, but do so with caution; bees can panic if overheated.
  6. Plug or tape all cracks between supers.
  7. Use alternative methods such as refrigerated trucks.

8. Collecting Supers and Extraction

  1. Avoid extracting honey from brood combs that are contaminated with American foulbrood disease or European foulbrood disease.
  2. Avoid accepting honey supers for extraction from other beekeepers, unless you know the health status of their bees.
  3. Have smaller beekeepers do their own extraction.
  4. Collect honey supers for extraction at the appropriate time.
  5. Minimize bringing brood into the honey house with honey supers, particularly when managing colonies without queen excluders.
  6. Extract honey supers promptly.
  7. Clean extracting facilities on a regular basis.
  8. Ensure good top and entrance ventilation, or maintain the humidity of hot rooms at < 50% relative humidity.
  9. Store wax cappings in sealed containers.

Record Keeping

The purpose of record keeping in minimizing exposure to pests is to facilitate traceback to the source of the exposure and to identify the paths that exposures occur, allowing for quick action in order to avoid further spread.

  1. Mark some or all equipment with unique identifiers (e.g. numbers or colours).
  2. Track which colonies are in which apiaries.
  3. Map the location of colonies in each apiary.
  4. Work with other beekeepers, PAs and producer associations to coordinate hive movement (for pollination) to reduce the risk of exposure.
  5. Record the name and address of other beekeepers' bees that are transported with or placed in proximity to your own bees if known.
  6. Maintain and keep records of pest presence for individual colonies, by apiary and the entire operation.
  7. Record management actions and dates that could represent potential sources of exposure:
    1. feed source.
    2. Introduction of used hive equipment and supplies.
    3. honey super placement, exchange, and removal dates.
    4. brood chambers received into the storage facility.
    5. bee source.

In addition, suspected and confirmed reports or official alerts of outbreaks of pests uncommon to the local area should be recorded at the apiary level. These records would be used to trigger more intensive monitoring in high-risk areas.

1.4 Diagnoses and Monitoring

Target Outcome

Pests and their signs are accurately diagnosed. Bee operations are monitored to assess the risk of pests.


Beekeepers and their staff should be trained on diagnoses and monitoring procedures to identify pests in their bee operation. If laboratory analysis is needed, beekeepers should be trained and have appropriate equipment available. If further identification and verification are required, beekeepers should know how to collect and where to send samples to diagnostic laboratory services. Beekeepers may participate in voluntary inspection programs for some biosecurity threats, where available. Beekeepers do not rely solely on regulated inspections for monitoring. Monitoring has three key purposes:

  1. Monitoring to detect abnormal conditions in the bee colony and to trigger an investigation into the cause, and to rule out non-infectious/infestation causes before treatment:
    1. unexpected declines in honey productivity or food reserves that may signal a bee health issue
    2. rates of winterkill
    3. visual observations of bee populations, including
      1. bee cluster size (number of frames covered with bees)
      2. queen presence
      3. eggs
      4. brood pattern
      5. queen cells
    4. visual observations of presence of dead bees and larvae:
      1. inside the hive (e.g. brood comb, on bottom board).
      2. outside the hive (e.g. at hive entrances)
    5. visual observations of abnormal bee behaviour:
      1. unusual aggressive behaviour
      2. robbing behaviour
      3. bees not flying, lethargic, disoriented, crawling, twitching, or trembling
  2. Monitoring to diagnose pests, determine infestation or infection levels if applicable, and to trigger treatment and notification, if required:
    1. observations of abnormal adult bee appearance or ill health:
      1. dysentery or Nosema-like symptoms:
        • greasy or wet looking, hairless, light coloured or opaque, reddish eye;
        • presence of fecal matter on frames or near hive entrances;
        • odour; and
        • counts of spores to assess whether recommended treatment thresholds for the monitoring period have been met.
      2. visual signs of mites:
        • adult Varroa mites on brood and adult bees
        • bees with deformed wings
        • presence of adult male mites and developing stages at the bottom of newly emerged brood cells
        • presence of fecal materials near caps of newly emerged brood cells
        • counts of mites to assess whether recommended treatment thresholds for the monitoring period have been met
    2. visual signs of brood diseases:
      1. atypical or dead larvae
      2. AFB scale
      3. chalkbrood mummy
      4. sacbrood
    3. visual signs of small hive beetle or wax moth, or associated damage
    4. visual signs of disturbance by nuisance pests such as ants, bears, skunks, raccoons, and rodents
    5. sampling for diagnostic laboratory or inspection services to confirm infection or infestation
  3. Monitoring to assess treatment thresholds, triggering re-treatment, if necessary, and evaluating treatment effectiveness:
    1. Assess whether recommended treatment thresholds for the monitoring period have been met (i.e. count mites, count Nosema spores, etc.).
    2. Evaluate treatment efficacy (i.e. if in doubt due to suspected resistance, if treatment conditions were not optimal, if experimenting with a new treatment).
    3. Test to confirm that treatment resistance did not occur.

A treatment threshold is a measurable level of an infection or infestation at which intervention should be taken to limit negative impact on bee health and to minimize economic loss. Treatment thresholds for some pests are specific to the sampling method, timing of sample collection, life stage of the pest, and geography. Treatment threshold levels may vary if multiple parasites are present (e.g. Varroa and tracheal mites), or if bees are more susceptible. Consult the provincial apiarist or specialist for treatment thresholds that are recommended in the local area.

The Risks

The risks of not monitoring for honey bee pests are

  • rapid spread throughout an apiary or an entire operation.
  • spread to neighbouring beekeeping operations through co-mixing (i.e. robbing) of infected or infested bees.
  • missing the proper window of the bees or the pest for administering effective treatments.
  • misdiagnosis leading to the wrong treatment being administered.
  • unnecessary treatment applications if the pest is only suspected and not confirmed, or if the recommended treatment thresholds have not been reached.
  • the incorrect assumption that a treatment has been effective when not the case due to resistance or environmental factors.
  • increased risks of contaminating honey and speeding up the development of resistance due to prophylactic use of medications.

Monitoring visual signs does not guarantee that the colony or hive equipment is pest free. For example, AFB spores may be present, and early signs of the manifestation of the disease are often hard to detect.

Producer Benefits

  • The key producer benefit of regular monitoring is knowing that proper procedures have been followed which either avoid the unnecessary use of controls or allow the proper use of controls in a timely manner.
  • A monitoring program enables early intervention to contain or eliminate the spread of the pest and to limit the impact on honey and colony production.
  • Late summer or fall monitoring may reduce winter losses by triggering management responses that improve wintering bee health and colony strength.

Recommended Practices

Principles of monitoring include:

  1. Pay regular attention to area outbreaks and alerts.
  2. If applicable, have regular monitoring precede the recommended treatment period. It should be timed to match the lifecycle of the bees (when they are most vulnerable), the lifecycle of the pest (when they are most likely to infect or infest the bee), and seasonality.
  3. Establish an ongoing monitoring plan that is harmonized with the bee operation's seasonal activities to assess colonies for pests during the following periods:
    1. spring, summer, and fall, according to the pest
    2. after treatments (to evaluate efficacy)
    3. in winter when weather permits if wintering outdoors (if applicable)
    4. while in the wintering facility if wintering indoors (if applicable)
    5. before uniting, splitting, equalizing, or requeening (if applicable)
    6. before equalizing colonies prior to sending for pollination
    7. before pulling honey supers (to identify weak colonies with low production)
    8. before queen rearing begins (if applicable)
    9. during queen rearing period (if applicable)
    10. before moving or transporting bees or queens (if applicable)
  4. Use an easy-to-interpret rating or scoring of colony strength, recording to track changes (e.g. a rating of 1–3).
  5. Recognize early visual signs that may indicate a problem. Further investigation into the cause is triggered to avoid unnecessary treatments.
  6. Monitor environmental or other factors (i.e. drought, pesticide kill, etc.) that may mimic the signs of infection or infestation.
  7. Use sampling methods that are thorough enough to represent your entire operation.
  8. Handle samples with care to avoid spread or degradation of the sample before it is analyzed.
  9. Confirm using microscopic tests, diagnostic labs, or inspection services where indicated.
  10. 1 Identify samples by colony, apiary, date, and beekeeping operation.
  11. Be aware of, and participate in, voluntary inspection and surveillance programs, where offered, in addition to inspecting one's own colonies.
  12. Keep records of collected observations and data by dates.
  13. Train and update beekeepers and staff to recognize common and exotic pests and their signs.
  14. Administer tests for suspected treatment resistance.
  15. Assess treatment efficacy in order to repeat re-treatment, if necessary, or use an alternative treatment if ineffective treatments are determined.

Refer to Appendix D for identification and monitoring methods for the main pests affecting honey bees.

Record Keeping

Record keeping is essential to monitoring for pests and diseases. Retain a record of the following information:

  1. apiary and colony identifier
  2. date of inspection
  3. person who inspected/monitored
  4. colony strength rating
  5. honey production
  6. visual observations of bee health and behaviour
  7. visual observations of signs of pests
  8. visual observations of disruption, comb, or hive box damage
  9. spore or parasite counts, and sampling method used
  10. notes on new biosecurity risks in the area

Recording for monitoring may be done on a hive-by-hive basis or for the whole apiary if a sample of hives is regularly monitored.

1.5 Standard Response Plan

Target Outcomes

Beekeepers have a standard response plan in place to address treatment thresholds, options and rotation plans, notification procedures, record keeping, and follow up actions.


A response is an intervention to prevent, eliminate, or reduce levels of infections and infestations of honey bees. Examples of responses include procedures for segregation; proper disposal; cultural, physical, and mechanical methods; or treatments with registered chemical or biological control products.

A standard response refers to interventions that address pests commonly encountered in the operation or the general area. Such biosecurity risks may be associated with provincial requirements or alert advisories.

Elevated response is addressed in section 1.6. An elevated response is triggered when a high risk, exotic, or unfamiliar pest is suspected or where its presence is confirmed. Such biosecurity risks are likely associated with provincial requirements.

A standard response trigger means that the pest has been confirmed or that the level of infection or infestation has been determined where seasonal treatment thresholds have been established by provincial recommendation.

A response plan is in place that includes procedures for segregation, destruction, cultural and chemical treatments, and communication and notification.

Types of treatments:

  • Acaricides: Substances used for killing mites (also called miticides)
  • Antibiotics: Substances used for killing or inhibiting bacteria
  • Fumigants: Controls that works in the vapour (gas) stage
  • Organic Acids: Organic compounds with acidic properties
  • Pheromone traps: Traps that use a pheromone – a chemical produced by insects to communicate with members of the same species – to attract an insect pest
  • Synthetic acaricides: Acaricides that are made synthetically
  • Non-Chemical Management is a method of managing a pest using a cultural, mechanical, or physical technique, rather than a biological or chemical-based control product.

Standard response planning entails

  • keeping up to date with recommended management recommendations.
  • understanding influences that could reduce treatment effectiveness.
  • understanding and following product labels.
  • managing the timing and scope of treatments.
  • rotating and alternating treatments, when recommended, to reduce the development of resistance.
  • coordinating treatments with sanitation and disinfection procedures to avoid re-exposure.
  • evaluating results.
  • keeping records of treatments and results.

Response planning requires that beekeepers and their employees be trained on procedures in order to implement the plan and know when and how to contact the provincial apiarist, apiculture specialist, or other regulating authority.

The Risks

The risks associated with not having a standard response plan that follows recommended treatment procedures and product label directions are as follows:

  • economic loss; increased winter losses, shortened lifespan of bees, slow spring buildup, and interference with brood rearing, resulting in reduced honey yields;
  • reduced treatment efficacy or outright treatment failure, resulting in weakened colonies or death;
  • risk of toxicity due to chemical interactions;
  • the more rapid spread of the pest, both within the operation and to other beekeepers' colonies;
  • greater likeliness of reinfection or reinfestation;
  • increased incidence of treatment resistance; and
  • colonies weakened by pests have less CAPA bility to withstand susceptibility factors and secondary infections.

Producer Benefits

Treating according to threshold levels provides the benefits of

  • reduced time and cost of administering treatments.
  • resistance management.
  • a decreased risk of chemical residue buildup.

Following all recommended treatment procedures, timing and ideal application conditions will help to

  • improve efficacy.
  • slow declines in honey production and bee losses.

Recommended Practices

The primary recommended Standard Response practice is to obtain and follow provincial treatment recommendations. This includes being aware of new product registrations, changes to product use procedures, or seasonal treatment thresholds, as well as non-chemical practices. Some provinces publish recommendations in the form of an annual update, whereas others issue a series of fact sheets or bulletins that are updated as required. If your province does not publish recommendations, contact your provincial apiarist or apiculture specialist for advice.

1. Principles of Treating with Chemical Controls

Use registered chemical treatments, rather than, or in conjunction with, cultural and sanitation/disinfection methods, whenever feasible. Chemical treatments are not a substitute for using non-chemical management techniques or minimizing bee susceptibility factors.

  1. Avoid developing resistance by
    1. rotating and alternating treatments, if applicable, at each treatment period (e.g. spring and fall).
    2. alternating or rotating different types of treatments between chemicals in different groups, whenever feasible. Avoid using multiple treatments for the same pest in the same treatment period.
  2. Minimize the use of synthetic acaricides. Be aware of potential chemical interactions and buildup in the wax that can be highly toxic to bees.
  3. If there is more than one treatment option available, choose treatments with more specificity to the organism and reduced toxicity to bees.
  4. Be aware of and follow seasonal treatment thresholds for spore or mite counts:
    1. One treatment may control multiple pests or diseases if both are present.
    2. Prophylactic or preventative treatments of antibiotics may or may not be recommended in certain circumstances. Contact your provincial apiarist or apiculture specialist for advice.
    3. Avoid treating, if treatment thresholds have not been reached.
  5. Read all labels before applying any pest control products to your colonies:
    1. Use medications, acaricides, and other treatments at the recommended rate or dose.
    2. Use products only if registered for that use, or if prescribed by a veterinarian.
    3. Pay attention to temperature and/or humidity constraints when applying treatments.
    4. For all treatments, respect withdrawal times and the maximum time the pesticide is permitted to be inside the colony. Avoid the use of treatments when honey supers are on, unless stated as safe on the product label.
    5. Dispose of treatments (e.g. acaricide strips) according to label directions.
    6. Avoid reusing acaricide strips.
    7. Avoid the use of products after their expiry date.
    8. Take all the appropriate safety measures (equipment, clothing) as recommended by the label directions when mixing/applying treatments.
  6. Be thorough and consistent when applying treatments. Where practical, treat all colonies that require treatment in the same yard at the same time. Alternatively, move some colonies out of the apiary that do not require treatment, and treat the rest.
  7. Apply at the right time, especially if treatment is administered with feed. Treatments need to be applied when infestations/infections reach treatment threshold levels and before honey production. Medicated feeding should occur before temperatures are too low and when the bees can no longer break cluster to access feed.

2. Non-Chemical Techniques to help Manage Pests in Live Bee Colonies

Note: Cultural and mechanical techniques may not eliminate the need for chemical treatments altogether. These techniques may reduce the spore or mite count below the treatment threshold.

The techniques described in this section refer to management of pests within live bee populations.

a. Managing Levels of Disease Caused by Pathogens
  1. The best cultural defence against disease is to maintain strong colonies with access to clean food and water, and to minimize susceptibility factors.
  2. Regularly monitor to identify pests, and segregate to prevent further spread.
  3. Routinely replacing brood frames and substituting contaminated combs with new comb are effective in reducing diseases such as Nosema and other brood diseases.
  4. If disease levels have built up to unacceptable levels in the comb, healthy bees may be introduced to uncontaminated equipment by shaking bees in front of the new hive.
  5. Regular requeening with resistant stock, or stock that exhibits hygienic traits, is an important preventative cultural practice discussed in Section 1.1.
b. Managing Varroa Mite Levels

Varroa mites may be managed with these non-chemical techniques:

  1. Maintain strong bee populations.
  2. Use screened bottom boards.
  3. Requeen with mite resistant stock.
  4. Practise drone brood trapping and drone comb removal for Varroa mite load management and monitoring.
  5. Use frames with drone foundation or drone brood.
  6. Split and requeen with queen cells, or use other techniques to interrupt the brood-rearing cycle.
c. Managing Tracheal Mites

Tracheal mites may be managed with a non-chemical technique by

  1. maintaining strong bee populations.
  2. placing sugar/vegetable shortening mixes (3:1 ratio) on the top bars of the hives. Shortening traces on bees prevent mites from recognizing the young bee as a potential host.
  3. requeening with tracheal mite resistant (TMR) stock.
  4. minimizing interchange of combs between colonies if health status is unknown.
d. Managing Small Hive Beetle

Small hive beetles may be managed with these non-chemical techniques:

  1. Maintain strong bee populations.
  2. Avoid situating apiaries on sandy soil where larvae can easily burrow and pupate.
  3. Use traps in the colony.
  4. Avoid making contact with equipment, stacking infested supers on strong colony hive boxes, inserting splits or exchanging combs with infested colonies.
  5. Remove dead outs promptly – beetles will multiply rapidly if not kept in check by worker bees.
  6. Use queen excluders.
e. Managing Wax Moth

Wax moths may be managed with these non-chemical techniques:

  1. Maintain strong bee populations.
  2. Remove wax and debris from the bottom boards of hives regularly – at least once a year.

Record Keeping

The following records of treatments and non-chemical management techniques should be kept on a per colony basis, unless all colonies in the apiary or operation are treated identically:

  1. name of treatment
  2. lot number of treatment, if applicable
  3. individual who applies the treatment or who performs the procedure
  4. date of verification by, and signature of, a person, other than applicator
  5. supplier
  6. expiry date of product
  7. date of application
  8. dose applied, especially if different than label rate
  9. notes about environmental conditions that could impact efficacy (e.g. temperature)
  10. Nosema spore or Varroa mite counts before and after treatment to measure effectiveness of treatment
  11. cultural or mechanical techniques employed
  12. observations

Retaining and filing copies of invoices will assist in record management for honey bee pest treatments.

1.6 Elevated Response Plan

Target Outcomes

Beekeepers have an elevated response plan in place and the conditions under which it will be implemented are understood.


An elevated response is triggered when a high-risk, exotic, or unfamiliar pest is suspected or where its presence is confirmed. Such biosecurity risks are likely associated with provincial requirements and in some cases, federally (CFIA) notifiable diseases.

An elevated response plan is triggered when

  • there is a quarantine in place. The declared quarantine area and individual quarantine order specifies the applicable boundaries, the reason for issuance, and the actions required, both permitted and prohibited. They remain in effect until lifted by the issuing authority.
  • alerts are issued by the federal or provincial governments, or producer associations that an exotic pest has entered the country or has been found in a province or a local area.
  • there is informal communication about unusual or elevated area outbreaks. These reports could originate from neighbouring beekeepers, associations or clubs, beekeepers that place bees for custom pollination near where other bees are placed, from farmers where bees are placed, or companies that contract custom pollination services.
  • the presence of high-risk pests in an operation is confirmed by the provincial apiarist or the honey bee regulating authority.
  • some change in bee populations, activity, or honey production is observed that is impossible for the beekeeper to readily explain or has never seen before.
  • signs of disease or the presence of mites or pests are observed that the beekeeper had not encountered before.
  • a beekeeper has treated for a pest but found the efficacy to have been less than expected. This could signal that treatment resistance is developing, the pest has been misdiagnosed, or that the application technique or the conditions under which the treatment was applied were not optimal.

The Risks

The following risks are associated with not having an elevated response plan:

  • potentially significant economic loss if inappropriate action is taken, appropriate action is not taken on short notice, or if there is no treatment available;
  • possible quarantine order placed on a bee yard, which remains in effect for an extended period;
  • possible disruptions to colony and equipment movement, or bee and supplies purchase or sale, associated with mandatory quarantine areas;
  • more rapid spread of the pests, both within the operation and to other beekeepers' colonies;
  • colonies weakened by pests have less ability to withstand the effects of inclement weather, malnutrition, disturbance, and pesticide exposure; and
  • reduced treatment efficacy or outright treatment failure if the pest is misdiagnosed and the wrong treatment is given, possibly resulting in weakened or dead colonies.

Producer Benefits

These are the benefits to producers with an elevated response plan:

  • A potential problem can be effectively dealt with before spreading and becoming a significant threat to bee operations.
  • Economic loss can be mitigated, and the cost and time associated with aggressive or large scale monitoring, treatment, and even quarantine can be avoided or reduced.
  • Beekeeper reputations can be preserved or restored more quickly if the problem is addressed effectively and in a timely manner – an advantage if marketing bees, bee products, or providing pollination services.
  • Treatments and application techniques can be adjusted to improve future efficacy.

Recommended Practices

An elevated response plan includes the following:

1. Communication and notification. The plan includes communication with each of the following:

  1. staff;
  2. bee inspector, provincial apiarist, or the honey bee regulating authority
  3. associations and clubs;
  4. suppliers or customers of bees, or bee products that could transmit the biosecurity risk;
  5. to other beekeepers where there is a possibility of spreading the pest; and
  6. farmers who have your bees placed on their fields or custom pollination contractors.

A directory of contact names, email addresses, and telephone numbers is kept up to date and is accessible to staff.

The primary trigger to communicating with government is regulatory for notifiable biosecurity risks.

The trigger to communicating with others outside the operation may be a function of

  1. whether the biosecurity risk is suspected or confirmed.
  2. the potential for rapid spread.
  3. the presence of the biosecurity risk elsewhere in the area.
  4. the identified source of the hazard.

2. Bee management protocol

  1. If a biosecurity risk is suspected but not yet confirmed, follow the instructions provided by your provincial apiarist or the honey bee regulating authority.

    Immediate actions may include the following:

    1. Temporarily suspend colony and equipment movements outside of a contained area (or quarantine area if applicable), if any are scheduled; for example movement to a new bee yard for custom pollination.
    2. Close, mark, and restrict access to suspect colonies.
    3. If feasible, segregate suspected or dead colonies in a bee-tight facility. If applicable to the biosecurity risk, store in a cold room with low relative humidity.
    4. Suspend bee and supply sales (if applicable).
    5. Suspend further introductions from the suspected source of the biosecurity risk to your operation.
    6. Increase monitoring and inspection frequency and sampling.
    7. Set traps, if applicable (e.g. for small hive beetle).
    8. Require beekeepers and staff who enter or leave your areas where the biosecurity risk has been contained to inspect or remove protective clothing and footwear, replacing with a spare set of clothing and footwear.
    9. Reduce the carry-over of dust and debris into buildings by sealing passageways and loading bays, and by restricting the use of dollies and carts to either the field or the building.
    10. Take extra precautions to disinfect vehicles, forklifts, nets, facilities, hive equipment, tools, and personal protective equipment after handling infested or infected colonies, or contaminated hive equipment.
  2. If a biosecurity risk is confirmed, these additional procedures may be recommended:
    1. Implement recommended actions, including destruction, disposal, or treatments as soon as possible.
    2. Extend treatments to all colonies in the apiary, depending on the biosecurity risk.
    3. Increase cultural, mechanical, and physical management techniques, as needed to minimize bees' susceptibility to pests.
    4. If a new virus infection is confirmed, concentrate on Varroa mite management, because the combination of these biosecurity risks may be devastating.

3. Additional protocols after confirmation and, if applicable, to the biosecurity risk

a. Quarantine Protocols
  1. Follow all requirements of the quarantine order or declared area. These may include restrictions on movement, obtaining official approval before moving colonies and equipment, specific destruction and disposal protocols, as well as record keeping.
b. Visitor protocol
  1. Maintain a visitor log, including name, organization, contact information, location, where the visitor is coming from and going to, the purpose of their visit, and the date and time of their visit.
  2. Require visitors entering or leaving your premises (as applicable) to inspect or remove protective clothing and clean footwear, and provide a spare set of clothing and footwear.
c. Signage
  1. Meet any signage requirements to identify quarantine boundaries.
  2. Install reminder signs for staff and visitors regarding extra precautions to take at identified entry and exit points.
  3. Ensure suspect or confirmed hives are marked as such.

Record Keeping

  1. Record keeping is similar to that of the standard response plan, but includes date and source of notifications and reports on quarantine orders (with contact information) to and from premises:
    1. staff
    2. provincial apiarist or the honey-bee regulating authority
    3. bee associations and clubs
    4. relevant suppliers or customers
    5. other beekeepers
    6. farmers and custom pollination contractors
  2. Strict record keeping of incidence management may be required by the provincial apiarist or honey bee regulating authority after confirmation.
  3. Keep copies of all records and documentation relating to notifications and quarantine orders.
  4. Ensure that standard record-keeping procedures are implemented for receiving bees, supplies, or for shipments from the operation.
  5. Maintain visitor log records.
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