Bumblebee Sector Guide To The 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, the Canadian Honey Council (on behalf of provincial beekeeping and honey producer associations), provincial apiarists (PAs), and the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists (CAPA). 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 implementing 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 the development of a voluntary farm-level biosecurity standard.

Value of the Canadian bee industry

Many crops rely on pollination by managed bee species. Canada has seen rapid growth in pollination-dependent crops, such as fruits and vegetables. The pollination value of bees, including bumblebees, is more difficult to estimate but is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Bumblebees may be used to pollinate 25 different crops, especially fruit, berries, vegetables, and some seed crops. It is estimated that 95% of bumblebees are used to pollinate greenhouse tomatoes and peppers in Canada, crops that Footnote 1 together are valued at $800 million annually. The Canadian Pollination Initiative (CANPOLIN), estimates bumblebee pollination of greenhouse tomatoes at about 12% of the value of the greenhouse tomato crop in Ontario.Footnote 2

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.

This document is the Producer Guide for suppliers and crop growers who use bumblebees for pollination. Much of this document describes practices that are easily incorporated into greenhouse operations. It is, however, the intent of this guide to provide measures that can be used by all sectors of the bumblebee industry (supplier, greenhouse growers, or field users). It provides practical guidance on how a series of target outcomes, associated with each topic covered by the Standard, may be achieved.

What is biosecurity and why is it important?

Farm-level 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 has a weakness, or where biosecurity measures are not fully implemented, it provides a route by which pests might 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, if applicable. Training, monitoring, preventative management practices (including equipment and facilities design), and timely treatment interventions are necessary to mitigate these risks.

What are the benefits?

There are many benefits to implementing good biosecurity practices. Generally, the benefit to growers is having the ability to reduce the risk of a potential problem before it spreads and becomes a significant biosecurity risk 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. Grower reputation can be preserved or restored more quickly if the problem is addressed effectively and in a timely manner. Treatments and application techniques can be adjusted to improve efficacy in future because the cause of the failure will be understood.

Following recommended biosecurity practices improves productivity from the bumblebees, keeps costs down, reduces risk, and provides peace of mind. The following list outlines how these recommended practices would benefit a grower:

Better Productivity

  • Managing environmental factors and keeping bees inside greenhouses enhances pollination activity
  • Keeping healthier bees enhances bee reproduction
  • Controlling nuisance pests leads to easier to manage bees

Lower Cost

  • Avoid unnecessary management through appropriate pest monitoring
  • Less time spent on hive disposal, disinfection, and hive replacement
  • Less requirement for culling equipment and supplies

Lower Risk

  • Less risk of exposure, introduction, and spread of pests
  • Less chance of devastation from introducing a new biosecurity risk
  • Earlier detection of biosecurity risks

Peace of Mind

  • Standard operating procedures improve everyone's comfort level with the presence of bees
  • Improved reputation for healthy bees
  • Improved ability to trace back the sources of pests and to apply management practices to other at-risk bees
  • Continuation of interprovincial and international trade if a serious outbreak were to occur elsewhere

Developing this document

This document provides growers with guidance on meeting the target outcomes of the National Bee Farm-Level Biosecurity Standard. Background work for the Standard and respective producer guides prioritized those biosecurity interventions with the greatest impact on risk reduction and the spread of contagious pests. This program is based on clear and scientifically justified principles. It details a range of measures that are intended to prevent pests from entering or leaving a location where bees are kept.

These general guidance notes 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. The Committee 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 PAs
  • honey bee and alfalfa leafcutting bee producer associations
  • the Canadian Honey Council (CHC)
  • alfalfa leafcutting bee industry associations (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba)
  • bumblebee industry experts, suppliers, and researchers
  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA) Office of Animal Biosecurity

Direct producer input was achieved through

  • a series of on-farm case studies.
  • selected interviews with suppliers and users of bumblebees for pollination of greenhouse and field crops.
  • selected participation in document review

How should this document be used?

The Canadian bee industry is a broad target audience, including the hobbyist, large-scale commercial honey producers, custom pollinators, using honey bees or alfalfa leafcutting bees, and greenhouse and field crop operators and suppliers. Understandably, not all principles in the Standard or in the producer guides will be applicable or practical for every situation. Keeping this in mind, the National Bee Farm-Level Biosecurity Standard has been organized into two sections:

  • Bee Health Management
  • Operations Management

Each of the sections is further divided into sub-sections that are introduced by a target outcome.

Each target outcome represents a goal that all those who manage bees should try to implement to protect their bees from the introduction and spread of pests. This is followed by a detailed description of the biosecurity topic, including applicable definitions. Recommended practices to reduce exposure or otherwise mitigate the impact of these risks are described.

This Producer Guide does not provide a full and complete listing of all methods that can be used to address bumblebee biosecurity, but it does include some existing beneficial practices and other examples to facilitate meeting the target outcomes, while providing the flexibility required for a variable and complex bumblebee industry. Not all principles will be applicable or practical for every situation.

All growers should focus on achieving a satisfactory level of control in each component on their farm. However, for those who are new to the concept of biosecurity, those with limited resources, or where it is not practical or applicable to fully achieve each of the target outcomes, the Producer Guide provides examples of measures to take in order to meet the target outcomes.

The bumblebee industry is dynamic. New strategies, products, and techniques to combat diseases, parasites, and pests will undoubtedly evolve as the science behind bumblebee keeping continues to advance. New biosecurity risks will emerge, and new measures may be developed to regulate the bumblebee industry. In fact, some sections (e.g. on regulations and treatments) have been included in anticipation of potential changes.

This document should be considered a living document. The basic principles described in the Standard and in this Producer Guide will apply into the future. It is the responsibility of producers to continually update their knowledge and to consider current regulations and recommendations when implementing biosecurity management practices within their operation.

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