Honey Bee Producer 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 (CFIA), the Canadian Honey Council (CHC) – on behalf of provincial beekeeping and honey producer associations – provincial apiarists, and the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists (CAPA).

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 the development of a voluntary farm-level biosecurity Standard.

Value of the Canadian Bee Industry

CANPOLIN , the Canadian Pollination InitiativeFootnote 1 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 beekeepersFootnote 2 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 canola, 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 honey.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. This Producer Guide provides practical guidance to honey beekeepers on how a series of target outcomes, associated with each topic covered by the National Standard, may be achieved.

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 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, feed and pollen 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 honey beekeeping operations may be

  • improved food security through the supply of healthy crop pollinators
  • better honey production and pollination by stronger colonies
  • 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 honey bees and bee products
  • possible continuation or early resumption of inter-provincial and international trade in the event of a serious outbreak
  • a marketing advantage if selling 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

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. The Producer Guide addresses management practices that promote general bee health.

Background work for the National Bee Farm-Level Biosecurity Standard and this Producer Guide prioritized those biosecurity interventions with the greatest impact on risk reduction and the spread of contagious pests. A set of target outcomes 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 this Producer Guide involved participation, consultation, and review from

  • all provincial apiarists
  • the Canadian Honey Council that represents the provincial beekeeping associations
  • other Members of BeeBAC representing the research and academic community
  • CFIA's Office of Animal Biosecurity

Direct honey beekeeper input was achieved through

  • a series of on-farm case studies.
  • a comprehensive management practice benchmark consultation. All identified active honey beekeepers in Canada were invited to participate. Over 600 honey beekeepers (10% of over 6000 beekeepers) participated.
  • selected participation in the draft Producer Guide document review team.

How should this document be used?

The Canadian honey bee industry is a broad target audience, consisting of the hobbyist, large-scale commercial honey producers, and custom pollinators. Understandably not all of the principles in this Producer Guide will be applicable or practical for every situation. Keeping this in mind, the National Bee Farm-Level Biosecurity Standard Honey Bee Producer Guide has been organized into two sections:

  • Bee Health Management
  • Operations Management

Each section is subsequently divided into subsections, introduced by a statement of Target Outcomes. Each Target Outcome represents a goal for all those who manage bees: achieve what is necessary to protect their bees from the introduction and spread of pests.

Each Target Outcome is followed by

  • a detailed description of the biosecurity topic, including key terms;
  • an explanation of the risks associated with the subtopic;
  • a statement of the benefits to the beekeeper, if the recommended practices are followed;
  • recommended practices to reduce exposure or otherwise mitigate the impact of these risks; and
  • suggested record-keeping processes

The end of the document includes a number of annexes, one of which is a self-evaluation checklist for use in identifying those Target Outcomes that are being effectively addressed, as well as potential areas for implementing biosecurity practices in a beekeeping operation. Another offers sample record-keeping spreadsheets. Annual beekeeping cycle and monitoring diagrams related to biosecurity practices are provided as visual reminders of how these practices fit in with an operation. In addition, there are contact and resource lists for additional information that is relevant to farm-level bee biosecurity, some regionally specific.

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

All who manage bees should address biosecurity in each component of their operation. For those who are new to the concept of biosecurity, for those with limited resources, or in instances wherein it is impractical or applicable to fully achieve each of the target outcomes, the Producer Guide provides a set of examples of practices that can be implemented to meet the Target Outcomes.

The honey bee industry is dynamic. New strategies, products, and techniques to combat pests will undoubtedly evolve as the science behind managing bees continues to advance. New biosecurity risks will emerge. Therefore, consider this document a living document. The basic principles described in this Producer Guide will apply into the future. It is the responsibility of beekeepers to continually update their knowledge and consider current regulation and recommendations when implementing biosecurity management practices within their operation.

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