Bee smoker in full force. Photo credit: Sharon Lee

B.C. Beekeepers convention: update on mite research, honey producer rules

At this time of the year – at least in the Northern Hemisphere – most beekeepers have their bees safely tucked in bed, the honey house has been cleaned and stores of fresh honey have hopefully dwindled while bank accounts have been replenished.

It’s time, then, for conferences, annual general meetings and education seminars.

Last week it was the B.C. Honey Producers Association’s AGM and education day in Kamloops. Amanda and I went up there for a power-packed couple of days where we learned we still have lots to learn.

You can find the proceedings of the AGM and education elsewhere – and the BCHPA will carry my full report in the next edition of BeesCene, the members-only quarterly magazine. Here’s the speakers’ biographies and topics of discussion.

But here are a few things I observed that are worthy of note.

Dr. Steve Pernal , the chief research scientist at  Beaverlodge Research Farm, gave an update on a three-year research project “Integrated Management of Nosema & Detection of Antibiotic Residues”,  looking at developing disease- and mite-resistant bees through the use of protein markers and genetic selection. He’s working with Dr. Rob Currie of the University of Manitoba, Dr. Leonard Foster at the University of B.C., and with bee breeders Liz Huxter and Heather Higo in B.C.

This work follows on Foster and Pernal’s Apis mellifera Proteomics of Innate Resistance (APIS) project that also looked at the use of protein markers for genetic selection.

Pernal’s report this week noted that his IPM project has completed its second year of work and that researchers have seen significant improvements in hygienic behaviour traits from the first generation to second generation of queens produced. The next generation will be released for assessment this spring to 12 B.C., Alberta and Manitoba commercial producers who contributed to the project. At a future date other beekeepers may get access to the improved genetic stock. I’ll write a more extensive piece on this later.

The Canadian government’s growing demand for  biosecurity and food safety is making now reaching into the commercial – and even hobbyist – beekeeping community.

The Canadian Honey Council has been proactively working on this issue, having created C-BISQT, the Canadian Beekeeping Industry’s Safety Quality and Traceability Program. Tim Townsend, who is on the CHC’s C-BISQT panel, says the program is undergoing yet another review by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the expectation is that new rules for commercial producers will go into effect in 2013. I don’t pretend to understand all of this, but at the AGM it became clear to me that even for hobbyists and small farm-gate producers, food safety, training and traceability issues are going to affect all of us.

As far as governance is concerned, the BCHPA is encountering the same problem many small and medium associations with thin memberships face when trying to do succession planning. Only one quarter of nearly 2,000 registered beekeepers in B.C. are members of the BCHPA, the provincial representative body. But only a handful of members participate in the business meetings, and few, if any people want to volunteer to run for office.

As a result, elections this year for three positions – president, treasurer and Canadian Honey Council representative – were filled by acclamation. I don’t know about you, but that is a sad commentary on democracy. We have three capable officers in the newly-acclaimed (Wayne Neidig as president, Pauline Thompson as treasurer and Gerry McKee as the CHC rep), but it saddens me that most people would rather sit on their hands than pitch in to help.

In my case, I volunteered to become the new Metro Vancouver rep, adding my name to a number of other BCHPA regional representatives. It obligates me to write reports on local issues for the association’s magazine. I also will make an effort to get around to various Lower Mainland clubs to find out what issues they want raised at the BCHPA.

In my next post I’ll talk about a few other interesting seminars that took place at the AGM, including Ian Tait’s “Feed The Bees” project and Julia Common’s innovative “Hives For Humanity” program.

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