Package bees from New Zealand being put into one of our hives in 2012.  Photograph by: Mark van Manen , Vancouver Sun

On the debate over buying bees imported from New Zealand

Reporter Jeff Lee (right) and wife Amanda Goodman Lee load up their hives with bees that arrived from New Zealand earlier in the day on Thursday. Photograph by: Mark van Manen , Vancouver Sun

This week, as commercial beekeepers began putting hives into apricot orchards and are busily getting ready for the blueberry season, we picked up some new packages from New Zealand.
There’s lots of debate over whether starting hives in Canada from packaged imports – whether from Australia, Chile or New Zealand.
For Amanda and I, our decision to buy eight packages of Carniolan hybrid bees from Arataki Honey was based on a desire to start a strong expansion which we will then supplement with locally-produced livestock.
Some experts, like Paul van Westendorp, the provincial apiculturalist, say we’re missing the opportunity to create a home-grown industry of genetically-local bees.
But others point to Canada’s long-standing inability to meet the demand of farmers who need pollination services earlier than beekeepers can provide with over-wintered stock.
Recently, Peter Awram up at Honeyview Farm in Rosedale, the largest commercial beekeeping operation in B.C., weighed in on this subject in one of my recent posts. Chris Bartel, the co-owner of Bartel Honey Farms of Kleefeld, Manitoba (which has the Canadian rights to Arataki imports) says he’d like to see a successful Canadian bee-breeding industry but he also believes we’re a ways away from that happening.
In a new story I’ve written for The Vancouver Sun I delve into the issues around bee importation and how it affects both hobbyists and commercial operators alike.

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