Bee issues have been front and centre in the major media these days.
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April 8, 2013
Dear Julie,

You'll see by the Latest News section below that bee issues have been front and centre in the major media these days. The New York Times has had two significant pieces that we have posted and CNN followed. As well, the OBA and other Ontario beekeepers were interviewed by CTV news. The link between bee health and neonicotinoids is becoming more publicly recognized, reinforcing our advocacy efforts. In this issue, we explain our decision not to participate in the Bayer sentinel hive project, and we also provide contact information to report any deadouts that you believe are caused by last year's incidents. We might feel a little jumpy these days, waiting to see what Spring brings, but let's not forget to smell the flowers (coming any day, right?)

All the best,
Dan Davidson, President


At the end of the Spring Meeting I informed the attendees that the OBA is not supporting Bayer's project or encouraging beekeepers to participate. Some people approached me after the session to talk about it, expressing surprise. I understand: it is unusual for the OBA to decline participation in research and we have historically worked collaboratively with all sectors. In this case, however, we felt strongly that we could not participate. But we also recognize the disappointment among beekeepers who thought this might be a worthy initiative, so we are explaining our decision more fully.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the project, a little history. After the widespread pesticide bee poisonings in Ontario last spring, the OBA requested an investigation from PMRA and compensation from Bayer for the affected beekeepers. Bayer declined, insisting that more research was required, and put forward a proposal for this 12-month project to monitor some hives in Ontario, compensating only those beekeepers.

After careful review, the OBA had four areas of concern:

THE DESIGN. The project calls for the selection of six hives in a number of bee yards. We felt that this was too small and random a sample to adequately reflect the potential impact of the neonicotinoid poisonings for 2013, and in addition, we felt it was important to test affected hives as well as those that may or may not be exposed to the pesticide, an approach that was not part of the design.

THE FOCUS. The study was strongly focused on monitoring and tracking bee diseases and pests. In fact, the words 'pesticide' or 'neonicotinoid' never once appeared in either the Field Protocol or the Project Contract. No 
mention of corn or seed either. We were concerned that this study would primarily be used to support Bayer's contention that the bee deaths were largely a result of varroa or other bee diseases. As well, the entire chain of custody of samples was handled by Bayer employees, not independent researchers.

HOW THE INFORMATION WOULD BE USED. We were very concerned that the contract called for almost complete confidentiality: "all information must be assumed confidential" and "...all associated intellectual property rights shall be and remain at all times the exclusive property of BSC both during and after the termination of this contract". We could not, in all good conscience, support a project where we couldn't provide complete transparency to beekeepers in Ontario.

COMPENSATION. Although the proposed compensation for the beekeepers involved with the study was adequate, the number of beekeepers involved was small compared to the number of those affected in 2012 or potentially in 2013. We felt that accepting this compensation for a few would contradict our stated position that we support compensation for all beekeepers who experienced bee loses due to neonicotinoid poisonings.

I'm sure you can appreciate the depth of the discussion and the difficulty of the decision for the Board. But in the end, we felt that this complex and critical issue deserves independent, scientific and transparent research and analysis, and so we said 'no.' However, we want to be clear that we are open to reviewing our position should Bayer reconsider and revise the project to address our concerns.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Getting ready for spring: Swarm prevention

You might think it's a tad early to be worrying about swarms, but now is the time to be reviewing your options and thinking about how you can minimize swarms in your bee yard before they've made up their minds to split for greener pastures. (Remember last year? "Honey! Look at all the bees! Oh.")  Keep in mind that, to bees, swarms are good. It's how they reproduce, and generally a sign that the colony is thriving and consequently becoming congested. However, it can also signal a failing queen, defective combs not suitable for brood, or being honey-bound. An important part of swarm prevention is understanding the conditions in your hive and then finding the most effective and least invasive strategy for your situation. We have a couple of good resources to get you started. MAAREC: Swarming Control and University of Florida

An addendum to last edition:  
In our last edition we provided some advice about how to handle dead-outs. This information was intended for loss typical to an Ontario winter. If you have experienced significant losses and you suspect last year's pesticide poisoning may be a contributing factor, please contact PRMA using the forms on their website. In our next edition, Provincial Apiarist Paul Kozak will advise us about how to manage samples and report any bee kills you think might be related to pesticide poisoning.

FYI Commercial beekeepers: Deadline approaching for Agricorp insurance application

We just wanted to remind you that the last day to apply for or to change your Agricorp insurance coverage is May 1st. 

Production Insurance protects Ontario producers from yield reductions and crop losses caused by factors beyond their control. Things like adverse weather, disease, wildlife and insect infestations. When you enrol in the Production Insurance plan for honey, you are guaranteed a level of production based on your yield history and the level of coverage you choose. If an insured peril causes your actual yield or extracted honey to be below your guaranteed production, a production claim may be paid on the difference is part of the suite of programs available under Growing Forward. In most plans, producers pay 40 per cent of the total premium cost and none of the administrative cost. Together, the federal and provincial governments contribute the other 60 per cent. Administrative costs are fully funded by both levels of government. Contact info
(Note to non-commercial beekeepers: This production insurance is not related to the OBA's group liability insurance which has no deadline.)
Hold the Date: OBA's Summer Meeting Saturday, July 6, 2013 at the Canada Agriculture Museum in Ottawa. Canada's unique agricultural heritage is featured at the museum where you can explore the sights and sounds of typical farm life. The new exhibit "Taking Care of Beesness", demonstrates the important role that bees play in pollination and the essential role they play in agriculture  - and, of course, in the production of honey and other hive products. Click here for more on the Museum.

Stay tuned for information about guest speakers and sessions.

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