LINDSAY: The Central Ontario Beekeeping Association in partnership with Farms at Work and Fleming College are hosting a 3-day workshop with Michael Bush, a well known pioneer of treatment-free beekeeping in the United States. The workshop is being held April 15-17 at Fleming College’s Frost Campus in Lindsay.
The workshop, titled, “Treatment Free Beekeeping”, aims to educate local beekeepers about alternative beekeeping practices that hope to help sustain the bee population in Ontario.
Pollinators like bees are crucial to Ontario’s Agriculture sector and economy. They contribute $992 million annually to Ontario's economy. They are also one of our planet’s most important ecosystem players. Over one third of our diet comes from plants pollinated by insects and about 80 percent of wild flowering plants would be extinct without bees pollinating them. A healthy bee population is crucial to a healthy and sustainable planet.
Honey bee losses over the last few years has been an issue of great concern. During the 2013-2014 winter, Ontario saw a loss of 58 percent of it’s honey bee population; the highest ever recorded honey bee colony loss in history. This season, Ontario saw a loss of only 20 percent. While a great improvement, it is still over double what is considered a sustainable loss by apiculturists. The maximum level of sustainable overwinter loss in Canada is considered to be 15 percent.
There are a number of contributing factors leading to honey bee population loss in Canada. The main stress factors according to the Government of Ontario include:
- Extreme Weather and Climate Change
- Disease, Pests, and Genetic Weakness
- Reduced Habitat and Poor Nutrition and
- Exposure to Pesticides
- Reduce overwinter mortality to 15 percent 2020 and
- An 80 percent reduction in the number of acres planted with neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed by 2017
The third component of the Strategy, the Pollinator Health Action Plan is expected to be released this Spring/Summer of 2016.
The Action Plan sets out to tackle the four population stressors faced by honey bees. These actions are increased habitat and food sources, genetically selecting honey bees that are resilient to common diseases and pests currently harming the population, implementing stricter pesticide regulations, and supporting climate change initiatives.
Michael Bush, speaker and author, stresses that while selective breeding of honey bees is helpful, it is important that we do not go into genetically modifying our honey bees. “Once those genes are patented and turned loose in the wild the "monsantos" of the world will be suing all the beekeepers for having their patented genes and no one will be able to avoid it”, said Bush.
You can hear more of Michael Bush’s thoughts on modern beekeeping by attending his workshop from April 15-17 at Fleming College’s Frost Campus. Registration is required and can be completed at www.centralontariobeekeepers.ca. For more information on Michael Bush and to read more about his beekeeping practices, please visit, www.bushfarms.com/bees.htm.