by SUSAN MANN
Beekeepers are nervously watching to see if small hive beetle will gain a greater wing hold in the province this year despite a government-imposed quarantine of bee and equipment movement in parts of southwestern Ontario.
Ontario’s chief veterinarian issued a declaration Monday under the Bees Act to establish the quarantine area for bees in Essex County and part of Chatham-Kent. The quarantine was set up to prevent the spread of small hive beetle, Aethina tumida, to other parts of the province and to protect the integrity of Ontario’s beekeeping industry.
Tibor Szabo, vice president of the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association, says the province’s measures may not be enough to prevent the beetle’s spread because the beetle can fly up to 14 kilometres, it can infiltrate bumble bee colonies and wild bumble bee nests and it can be transported on rotting fruit, especially melons, where it reproduces.
“It’s not an easy thing to contain,” he explains.
Szabo says bumble bees aren’t covered by regulations and therefore they can be moved in and out of the quarantine zone.
Agriculture ministry spokesperson Susan Murray says bumble bees aren’t covered under the Bees Act but the government is working on best management practices for them.
Murray says part of the reason the zone extends beyond the infested area of Essex County is in recognition of the beetles’ flying ability.
The government declaration means people can’t move their bee colonies or equipment within or out of the quarantine area without prior written approval from the provincial apiarist. They must also report any previous unreported findings of small hive beetle to the agriculture ministry, participate in surveillance and treatment directed by the provincial apiarist and follow specific biosecurity measures listed in the declaration, such as footwear cleansing and utensil disinfection.
Murray says about 50 beekeepers are located in the quarantine area. It’s too early to say how long the quarantine will be in place.
Szabo says other beekeepers outside the quarantine area, such as queen bee producers, are also affected because some provinces won’t allow imports of any bees coming from within a 100-kilometre radius of a quarantine zone established by a provincial agriculture ministry.
Small hive beetle is an emerging and invasive pest of the European honeybee. It is established in most regions of the United States and there have been confirmed findings in southern Quebec and Western Canada. It damages beekeeping equipment and spoils honey.
The beetle’s presence was confirmed in Essex Country last September. The agriculture ministry says in a press release it immediately quarantined 16 beekeeping yards and one processing facility in the county under the Animal Health Act.
The specific boundaries of the quarantine are all of Essex County and the part of the Municipality of Chatham-Kent lying south-westward of a line made up of a Town Line Road, Pump Road and Merlin Road (also known as County Road 7), as if these roadways extended continuously from points of intersection with the shorelines of Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie.
In January, the beetle was added as a named pest under the regulations of the Ontario Bees Act. BF