Newfoundland & Labrador Beekeeping Association

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Peter Armitage

New Bee
Feb 12, 2017
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Greetings from Newfoundland! I'm on the board of the Newfoundland and Labrador Beekeeping Association (NLBKA). While we are a young association, having been in existence for less than three years, we have big plans with respect to expanding beekeeping in the province. We are dedicated to the protection of Newfoundland and Labrador’s (NL) honey bees and the craft of beekeeping in the province, the promotion of effective beekeeping practices through education of our members and the general public, and support for commercial and hobby beekeepers.

Our priorities to-date have been to support urban beekeeping initiatives and related municipal ordinances, lobby the provincial government with respect to enhanced regulation of honey bee and used equipment imports as well as restrictions on the importation of bumble bees for commercial pollination, organize training for entry-level beekeepers, and promote sustainable, ecologically responsible beekeeping through various public communications.

Somewhat like the Isle of Man in the U.K., we beekeepers in NL enjoy a special status in that we are free of Varroa destructor, tracheal mites, American foulbrood, European foulbrood, wax moths, Nosema ceranae, small hive beetles, and various viruses that plague honey bees elsewhere in the world. We also have relatively healthy wild bee populations, and little in the way of industrial agriculture that would threaten them and our honey bees (e.g., no known applications of neonicotinoids by farmers currently).

We would like to maintain this pathogen free status for as long as possible, for obvious reasons, and that's why we support enhanced regulation by our provincial government with respect to the importation of honey bees, bumble bees, and used beekeeping equipment.

Nonetheless, beekeeping in Newfoundland and Labrador is challenging given our short forage season. Moreover, we currently have only about 500 colonies in the province (compared to about 800 on the Isle of Man).

We want to expand beekeeping in NL in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner while at the same time protecting our native bee species. That, indeed, is the mandate of our association. Given our current, relatively pathogen-free status, we think we may be able to assist beekeepers elsewhere in the world with initiatives to protect honey bees, although what these initiatives are remains to be seen. We don’t think we can achieve our long term goals in isolation from what beekeepers are doing in the rest of Canada, and we recognize that we are part of a larger community sharing many of the same values, aspirations, and concerns.
Do you know what species of bee you have? Wild European bees probably? If you are not currently troubled by diseases and pests, your idea of having bio-security measures backed up by provincial legislation to protect the valuable assets that you currently have is SO important. Use Australia as a model - they do not allow ANYTHING related to bees into the country from outside, unless it's been irradiated. I could not even take a single jar of my honey to my son who lives near Sydney. I had visions of standing in the customs hall in Sydney airport, trying to eat a jar of honey rather than it being destroyed, so I decided not to risk it.

You might want to investigate irradiation service available in NL because at some stage somebody might need to import pollen, etc. and that needs to be irradiated to be safe so it would be good to get that service tee'd up in advance.

You might want to investigate the availability in NL of high density polystyrene beehives - in your cold maritime climate the bees need all the protection they can get and the polyhive route is the way to go - see for a physicist's view of the thermal behaviour of hives.

Best of luck with your enterprise - have a look at the BIBBA website for tips on breeding native bees -

The genetic composition of our currently small population of honey bees on the Island of Newfoundland is largely the creation of Wally Skinner, his daughter Andrea Skinner, and Paige Marchant (Newfoundland Bee Company), with the assistance of Wally’s other daughter, Alison van Alten (Tuckamore Bee Company) who is a bee breeder near Guelph, Ontario. The stock is basically A. mellifera ligustica with various other ingredients from multiple sources.
Wally first purchased honey bees from Al Flemming in Nova Scotia around 1974. These were derived from imported U.S. packaged bees and were being used on the John L. Bragg blueberry farm operations in Nova Scotia (Oxford Frozen Foods). See bio on Al. “Al thinks he has got some good bees: mainly Carniolans with some Buckfast genetics from Weaver Apiaries of Texas that pre-date Nova Scotia’s flirtation with Brother Adam’s bees, and the residue of Philip Bishop’s rigorous selection”
At the end of the first year of beekeeping, Wally gassed his colonies, and ordered packages from the mainland of Canada. This was typical practice at that point in time; to kill off colonies when taking honey off in the fall, and then replace with imported packages the following spring.
At some point early on, he purchased a queen from Jerry Draheim (Pugwash, Nova Scotia area). See He purchased queens a couple of years from Silas Thompson in Grand Falls-Windsor, Newfoundland. To the best of my knowledge Thompson purchased bees from other parts of Canada (Quebec, Ontario and Nova Scotia) and later from Australia and New Zealand.
Import restrictions were imposed by the Newfoundland government around 1987 at which point these purchases ended. However, queens and eggs were allowed in under government permit.
With the assistance of Alison, Wally, Andrea, and Paige imported Russian Primorksy eggs once (derived from the U.S.), and eggs from Alison’s Ontario stock once. The Ontario stock had been bred for disease resistance. Ontario Beekeeping Association had imported the Primorsky stock as part of a Russian bee breeding program involving a breeder in Ontario named Francois Petit (Pilgrim Honey House) who handled all the imported Russian stock. Lastly, the Skinners imported 10 Hawaiian queens in 2008.
It appears we had no further imports until April 2016 when three beekeepers imported 130 packages of honey bees from Western Australia. While this was done legally, following protocols set by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, it was extremely controversial because of inadequate consultation with the wider beekeeping community, concerns about differing disease, pest and pathogen profiles (between Newfoundland and WA), and other concerns about introducing new genetics into our existing honey bee strain which is quite winter hardy.
This is what Dan Price, past president of the NL Beekeeping Association has to say about this Skinner strain.
"Subject to correction from the Newfoundland Bee Company breeders, I have observed the following traits in their Newfoundland bee line since 2009. And what a beautiful bee they have created. First: a very gentle bee. When you open the hive on a hot day they just stroll around. No agitation, no guard bees lining up and looking at you. Nada. Second: gradual spring builders; fine for our gradual spring climate, but explosive breeders when the weather gets right (I think that is the Russian). Third: some colonies kick out the drones on the first cool night in September while others do it three or four weeks later (Must be the Carniolan coming out). Fourth: I regularly come out into spring with an excess of honey stores before the big breeding cycle comes on (Perhaps a bit of Russian?). Whatever you may conclude, this is what we have and it is Great! We have Wally Skinner and his successors Andrea and Paige to thank. We are very fortunate!"
We need those kind of biosecurity measures here. It will take a couple of years to get to that point; we have a lot of public education (and education of government) to do in the meantime. Thanks for that!