By Tom Collins
The Ontario Beekeepers’ Association (OBA) says it won’t participate in the first national study to look at pesticide levels in Ontario.
The study is being conducted by the Alberta-based National Bee Diagnostic Centre, which calls itself the first comprehensive laboratory in Canada to provide diagnostic services for honeybee pests, diseases, and parasites. The government-funded centre is in year two of a four-year study that will create a baseline of pests, diseases and parasites affecting honeybees in Canada. The study began in Alberta and Manitoba last year and will expand to other provinces, including Ontario and British Columbia this year. Because of the way the funding is set up, the study won’t look at pesticide levels — including neonicotinoids — in bee colonies until year four.
The OBA says this is not acceptable and is encouraging its members not to participate in the study. But the Alberta researchers say it would look at pesticides now if the OBA would be willing to fund it. While money between the two groups was never discussed, it generally costs about $150 per beekeeper to examine pesticide levels in colonies. With 50 Ontario beekeepers needed for the study this year, it would cost the OBA about $7,500.
OBA board member Julie White says the association doesn’t have the money to pay for a pesticide study for the next two years.
“We live on such a shoestring. We don’t have any resources to do that kind of thing at all,” she said. “We use all of our funding for research, training, education, advocacy and honey promotion. Every penny is allocated. We haven’t got any money to put toward a national study like that.”
At the OBA’s annual general meeting for the year ending Sept. 30, 2014, the group reported a balance of $109,230.
“I would totally pay for it in a heartbeat,” says Grain Farmers of Ontario chair Mark Brock. “But if we paid for it, OBA wouldn’t believe anything that came out of it. We would totally fund stuff with them (the OBA), but they only want to fund stuff that seems to prop up their position.”
Researchers are looking for 50 Ontario apiaries that have at least 100 colonies to participate in the study. Samples would be taken from 10 colonies per apiary. Each beekeeper that participates gets a confidential report sent to the farm with the results, and comparisons to apiaries in the region, other regions in Ontario, and the province. Samples are taken between July 1 and Aug. 30 before fall treatment starts.
“Ontario (beekeepers who participate in the study) will receive three continuous years of diagnostic results and one year of chemical residual analysis,” says applied research manager Carlos Castillo.
For more information on the study, visit www.thenbdc.ca.