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There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
(Shakespeare's Hamlet I.v. 174-175)

On the way to Saskatoon, I took a picture of a wintering yard. 
Some hives are in polystyrene boxes.

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Saturday 1 February 2003
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It's good to be home.  I couldn't get out of Saskatchewan fast enough, and I'm lucky I didn't get a speeding ticket on the way out of there.  I think I will leave Saskatchewan to their own ways, and hope they will have the good grace not to interfere in ours.

The banquet was fun last night, but I quit early to get some rest.  At 8:30, this morning, I awoke to the news that another space shuttle had fallen apart.  Not surprising, really; it's an experimental craft, and that design is far from a mature concept.  Just the same, it is a sad event and a disappointment, perhaps even more so in these dark days when all talk is about upcoming war(s). Since I got up late, I skipped breakfast and went to the bear pit session to hear what the Saskatchewan beekeepers who are evaluating Russian bee stock had to say.

By then, I was realizing that I was the only Alberta beekeeper at the whole convention, and that I saw no one from BC, other provinces, or the US (other than Dr. Caron).  (I am not sure about Manitoba; my understanding is that Tim Wendell operates in Manitoba, but I confess ignorance on that point).   I was starting to think that the absence of outsiders was a little eerie, since in the past, quite a few Alberta people made a point of going to Saskatchewan, and we welcomed Saskatchewan people at our Alberta meeting last November.  There had also been a number of Alberta, and other out-of province, beekeepers at the BC meeting Quesnel.  In fact, I had been explicitly invited to speak in BC and had most expenses paid, partially because they were hoping to better understand and consider the views of Alberta beekeepers.

At the November ABA meeting in Alberta -- as I recall -- Saskatchewan visitors had been given equal and ample opportunity with Alberta members to express their views in full, and at length.  We had also had a Manitoba contingent in Edmonton, and they were heard respectfully.  Hey, we even had people from Hawaii and California, and they got to talk too.  I recall Kevin Ward and I had a bit of a heated exchange on the floor about the idea of Alberta buying California packages. He was in favour and I expressed concern, but I also recall that we all wound up in the bar together, and I think Kevin bought my beer.

I also recall that Wink Howland went home and wrote in the Saskatchewan newsletter that Alberta beekeepers were broken into cliques that do not speak to one another.  I have not seen that (and you know that I get around and listen to everyone), but I can understand that he may have gotten that impression, because he has judged incapable of listening, and people have given up trying to talk to him and to the CHC. 

People feel hurt, rebuffed and disenfranchised.  In Alberta, the Canadian Honey Council, which he represents, has lost respect and only a few of us diehard optimists continue to pay dues.  It is sad.  There is very serious breakdown when formerly strong supporters and officers of the CHC, Jean Paradis and Barrie Termeer -- to name only two -- openly advocate that Alberta leave the CHC.  They have been forced to conclude that the CHC is obstinately and actively working against the best interests of the industry in Alberta, although CHC has been given every opportunity to see that many of these questions are not  either/or matters, and that all interests can be accommodated.

I had noticed that, at this Saskatoon meeting, no one had been asked to give greetings from Alberta, and I offered to do so, intending to invite the crowd to be sure to come to Edmonton this Feb 20th and 21st for the IPM workshop.  Sure, it is a course for Alberta beekeepers, but the Alberta policy is to share and share alike.  I thought I'd say a few nice things and see about doing a little bridge building.

Beekeepers discussing the USDA Russian stockThat opportunity never came to pass.  The bear pit session went much as expected.  It was largely self-congratulatory and there was not much to say, really, except that the stock gave signs of being as good as, or better than, the stock that the Saskatchewan beekeepers had developed, plus it was expected to be hygienic and mite resistant.  A minority view was presented as well, by a beekeeper who has not adopted the Russian stock yet, saying that it is still too early to say and that possibly existing stock is better.   Although all the real work had been done by the USDA, and the USDA had generously and freely shared the stock with these beekeepers, expecting nothing in return, the group was looking the gift horse carefully in the mouth.

Then, Wink made some arrangements with the chair and Heather Clay stood up and -- to my astonishment -- somewhat apologetically conveyed a request from Medhat to consider supporting -- or at least not opposing -- the controlled import of US queens from selected mainland US sources into Alberta -- under strict inspection and special protocols to ensure zero importation of any varroa.

These protocols were considered necessary to placate the (somewhat remote, but real) fear of getting doubly resistant mites.  SHB importation is not even a remote possibility when queens are alone in cages, and the possibility of importing Africanized bees is not real, assuming that the shippers are selected carefully.  Moreover, the presentation by Dr. Caron seemed to indicate that AHB acts very much like EHB in the extreme areas of the temperate zone, so AHB may not be as big a concern as many have thought. 

The timing was awful, and what ensued was both a sad display of ignorance, and of arrogant unconcern for an honest neighbours' opinions, welfare, genuine needs and concerns.   As someone who has no strong views on the border issue (but does have strong views on open-mindedness and generosity to others) and who has traveled and consulted widely to try to get a perspective on this and other questions, I can see both sides of this question and I see lots of room for compromise and co-operation.  I am not inclined to partisan politics, and like to examine and re-examine each issue carefully on  its merits.  Any new perspective or reasoning I much appreciate -- as you must know if you read these pages often. 

At first, I could not believe my ears, but then I quickly gathered my things and left, to avoid witnessing what appeared to be rapidly turning into a gang beating.  I drove from Saskatoon as quickly as I could.  The road conditions were slippery and foggy until I neared the Alberta border.  As Alberta drew close, the sun came out and the landscape again took on shape and clarity.  I have not been involved in any previous attempts to discuss the border with an unreasoning, fanatic group -- or even suspected that my normally pleasant friends to the east could be so insensitive and uncomprehending -- but now I can understand why no other Alberta beekeepers were there.  Some might say that this is democracy, but that kind of democracy is like two wolves and a sheep discussing what is for supper.  Democracy, as I know it and love it, takes into consideration the needs and wants of minorities.

At any rate, I have no idea what transpired after I left.  Perhaps some statesman, if there was a statesman in that assembly, pointed out that Alberta had -- against Alberta's own interest -- reluctantly supported the neighbouring provinces in the original border closure, even though families and businesses were ruined or severely damaged  in the process. Maybe someone pointed out that there is no transshipment of bees between Alberta and Saskatchewan, and that the areas where Alberta and Saskatchewan beekeepers come into contact are very limited.   Maybe someone pointed out that those areas of Alberta are not a threat, since the beekeepers in those areas share similar philosophies.  Maybe someone pointed out that Alberta had spent $1,000,000 on stock development and that there are at least seven serious queen breeders and producers in Alberta and more in BC, but there is still a large queen deficit.  Maybe someone pointed out that the imports could be restricted to areas that are many hundreds of miles away from their operations and that any concerns or risks to them would be managed carefully.  Maybe someone pointed out that there are Saskatchewan beekeepers paying huge sacrifices for the provincial policies that benefit some, but punish others, but that they are afraid to speak out.

If someone did say those things, it was not I.  I was gone.   I had already discovered, in a resolution discussing the importation of more USDA breeding stock, that the insights of outsiders are not welcomed in such matters.  I can usually bring estranged parties together and find common points, but I know efforts are wasted, and even counterproductive, when people are determined not to listen, and this group had its mind made up.  I was very disappointed in my friends.  I was on the road, and I could not put enough distance between that meeting and myself  fast enough to suit me.  What I saw looked like a mob, and it was ugly.  I hope these people come to their senses and appreciate the generosity they have received from Alberta and others in the past and what they are receiving freely from the USDA, an agency of a country whose exports they are unconscionably blocking.  I hope they realize that trade is a two-way street and that they can't just be takers for ever. 

I know how much this queen question means to some people in Alberta.  Not to me, and not to the majority, but some people.  In Alberta, we've acknowledged this and compromised so that all can have a chance.  In Saskatchewan, apparently an inflexible fortress mentality prevails.   I'd been warned, but did not believe until I saw its ugly face today.  My Dad had an expression for what I saw today: "Dog in the manger", was all he'd have said.

I can remember, years ago, when Alberta beekeepers and Saskatchewan beekeepers were divided into irrational warring camps.  The divide was maintained by several manipulative individuals who used irrational ad hominem arguments, fear and suspicion to drive people apart and to recruit followers.  At some point, as a group, most of us recognized what was happening and what it was costing us in terms of cash and in terms of human dignity, and since those days, most of us have learned to separate the people from the issues and to all get along.   We compromise and try to respect the minority interests. 

In fact, in this current situation, I'd say that most Alberta beekeepers don't particularly want US mainland stock, and some are self-sufficient, but in the large, they do respect and support -- or at least do not oppose -- the minority that do need packages or queens and are offended by those who do not acknowledge and accommodate the needs and tastes of others.  Most of us just don't understand keeping others from what they need, especially if the cost to us is small.  It is not in the Alberta culture.  By the large, we don't expect others to be like us and to operate the way we choose to, want what we want.  And, the corollary to this is that, of course, I can't speak for all Alberta beekeepers, nor would I wish to.

I try to be careful what I say here, and to present things in a positive light.  Maybe I'll get over this and re-write it tomorrow.  Maybe someone will tell me it is just a bad dream.  Anyhow,  I calls 'em the way I sees 'em,  and I want to make this clear: I don't dislike or blame any of the people involved.   I do think they are suffering under a delusion, but I consider them friends.   I want very much to discuss the issues with them.  I just hope they will consider others for a change, quit being so selfish, listen carefully, and compromise where it costs them nothing.

After all, the issue of importing queens to Alberta -- in really -- had nothing to do with Saskatchewan.  The request was merely a courtesy.  For Saskatchewan, the Alberta border on the west is every bit as closed to bee transit as the US border on the south.

If anyone is wondering, no, I'm not mad and I don't hold grudges.  I just know when I'm in the wrong place.  After years of beekeeping, I know that if the bees are getting vicious, and smoke does not work, get out of there and come back another time.  Hope this applies to beekeepers, too. <G>.

Saturday..Becoming mainly cloudy near midday. Wind west 20. High plus 5. Tonight..Cloudy with 60 percent chance of flurries. Clearing overnight. Wind north 30 km/h diminishing to light. Low minus 7. Normals for the period..Low minus 14. High minus 2.

Sunday 2 February 2003
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I awoke and looked for any messages telling me that I was wrong.  There are none.  I refined my comments a bit and now will get on with life, a little wiser and a little sadder.  Anyhow, today we are expecting visitors again.  One is wanting a truck and another, to get started in bees.

Beyond that, our year-end was the 31st of January and I need to get things in order for the accountant.  I also need to discipline myself to turn out a half-dozen articles.  Yesterday I wrote 2,100 words for free.  Now I need to write some that are published, and which help bring home the bacon.  We also plan to go south sometime, and I have thought of going to see my family in the East.

Although we have sold about half our hives, we still have about 1,600 hives and if they do not sell soon, I will be running at least some of them again this spring.  If I have to take the winter loss and do any spring work, I will keep them.  We raised the price to $210 at the beginning of February, and if we sell any in March or later, I expect the price will be up to $250.  That's what other sellers (and they are very few) have told me. 

The consensus, that I have gathered from many sources, is that the price of honey will remain in the $2 to $2.50 CAD ($1.30 to $1.60 US) region for the next two years.  One guesser (who has been very good at getting top price) is banking on a spike to $3.00 CAD in the near future. 

After that, quality assurance considerations may keep the honey produced by superior managers well above the market, and buyers may be reluctant to buy from uncertified sources at all, due to the risks of expensive recalls, demands for HACCP and other guarantees from their downstream buyers, and the increased pressure from improved and cheaper techniques for detection of impurities. 

Although not much honey is moving right now, the price seems firm above $2 CAD, at about $2.20.  The Argentine outlook is hard to pin down right now, since it is early in their season, (February 1 in South America is comparable to August 1 in the northern hemisphere -- that is often when we have just begun extracting) but there are no signs of a bumper crop.  For the most part, they are maintaining the price. 

Okay.  I got a phone call.  Not to tell me I was wrong, exactly, but to fill me in with a bit more info.  I expect I'll get an email or two which I'll share here, but I hope you'll understand if I withhold the names, since I'm coming to understand that, in some places, those who practice free speech can be punished.  So, if you reply on this topic, I'll not reveal your name -- unless you ask me to.

I also sold a truck this morning, one of the diesel one tons.

Here's some comment on the Saskatchewan meeting:

I can only state personally that I am sorry for the treatment afforded you by the SBA, however you were not alone as one of the SBA's own outgoing directors was not mentioned as he had provided excellent work on behalf of the SBA for several years. He did not stand for re-election and was not thanked or even mentioned by the SBA for his service to them... Yes Etiquette has to become part of the agenda for the SBA.

To talk to the point regard the last 20 minutes of the SBA convention... my thoughts... Embarrassing! The current president of the Canadian Honey Council should not have presented a half thought out discussion and put it to the SBA for consideration without first hearing all the facts. This TIMING was incredibly WRONG! Heather Clay was put on the spot to recite a discussion that Medhat Nasr and herself had regarding the possibility of bringing in US Queens to Alberta for the 20 to 30 thousand queen shortfall seen each and every year. To most members of the SBA this issue is somewhat "touchy" as it now raises the concerns as well as ALARMS are set off as to how this shortfall is now being met? Ozzy Queens? New Zealand Queens ? Hawaiian Queens?... or even worse the possibility of smuggled queens. Two persons were caught at the US border and to my information, charges are still pending and the case is continually being built. So as to the question why now? One Saskatchewan beekeeper stood up and asked the chair if this was just not a method of making the illegal smuggling of queens, LEGAL?

This issue brought forth by the CHC delegate was hot on the heels of an issue just discussed passionately about bringing purebred Russian Queens into Saskatchewan rather than the proposed eggs and semen method adopted by, ironically, Medhat Nasr. The emotions were high and the vote was unanimous not to ask the membership to allow queens into Saskatchewan and to follow the original motion of obtaining eggs and semen or whatever the scientific terminology is for that. Not two minutes later, the CHC had stood in front of the assembly minutes away from the conclusion of the conference to again stir the issue of QUEENs, but now into Alberta... No TIMING was poor as the discussion got out of hand, the MOB like sentiments became apparent and yeah... it was sad to witness.

The issue in my opinion should never have been brought up by the CHC without full disclosure as to the What, Why, Where how and whens were also addressed.

You state in your diary too that this is an ALBERTA issue and not relative to SASKATCHEWAN, I will disagree with you there. A few beekeepers in the Porcupine Plain area of Saskatchewan have the dubious honour of importing our current Varroa problem. This is not a guess either it is a fact. These bees were being wintered in Southern BC, along side BC, and Alberta bees... yepp that dang mite latched on to those Sask bees too... So the current situation in Saskatchewan with a 30 % Varroa infestation rate for the past 10 years, stems from a few operators that would not part with the OLD ways of beekeeping and were malicious in writing their own ticket... We all thank them NOT!

The talk at ABA conventions from beekeepers is that Porcupine Plain, area wanting to sell US continental bees to Albertan's? Hmmmmm.... Are we directly impacted? No, Indirectly..... In my opinion, definitely I believe ! So the issue of Alberta getting a legal foothold to getting Queens across the US Canadian border is only seen as STEP ONE of a multi tiered process to ultimately have Bees on Comb coming across. The US Canadian border is a defended border the Alberta Saskatchewan border is not.... So once in, it is felt that the domino effect takes place. Saskatchewan has bought time in having to deal with the latest and greatest adversaries to beekeeping effectively and efficiently... I believe that they are passionate in defending that. And just perhaps that is why you had to witness the militancy involved with that discussion.

What would I like to see? I think think that the mite is a more ugly pest than we all admit... regardless of facts that having the mite is not a Social disease... it is a fact, a problem and a common enemy that ALL beekeepers have to look to the future to combat to the best of our abilities. To sit on the sidelines and think this problem will go away is shortsighted. I only hope that Medhat's idea was to include RUSSIAN queens without resistant mites and without the next critical and perhaps lethal dose or ??? whatever, that strikes down the bee industry. I think it is agreed that the US normal stock bee are good, but they are also the primary source of the most newest, grooviest and unwanted diseases going.

To speak to your uneasiness with the way the convention ended, you were not alone and I hope that the SBA rethinks the way they conduct their proceedings. I cannot apologize on behalf of the SBA, but I think that beekeepers are beekeepers first and that politics are politics.... and when the two get together... it never ends up being very predictable at all.

Cheers and Good Luck with your Retirement

... just a Saskatchewan beekeeper

Well, I can see that people don't know, so I'll say right now that the shortfall has been filled by smuggled queens for many years and further that Saskatchewan is getting at least 5,000 of those, from what I hear.  I've heard much larger numbers, too.  As for names and details I don't know, since I am not in that loop, but I believe what I have heard from multiple sources both in the US and Canada.

In regard to the Porcupine Plain folks, well, that is a Saskatchewan problem and has nothing to do with Alberta.  We got our mites the same way, but we decided that, rather than make our beekeepers criminals, exiles or pariahs for going about their normal business, we'd adapt.  It cost us all a bit, some more than others, but we still have our freedom and we all get along.

As for talk of the "OLD" way of beekeeping, that is the exact party line I instantly got from Tim, when I mentioned casually that not everyone was prospering in Saskatchewan's Brave New World.  "OLD" and "New" are slogan words, not words with rational meaning here.  Trading in bees is just another way of beekeeping, and one that makes the most of the natural advantages found throughout a natural trading area.

How can people in Saskatchewan expect to receive expensive breeding stock from the USDA and not even discuss fair trade with the USA and possible means by which reasonable phytosanitary concerns can be met?   That was what the request was about; buying exports from the country that developed the stock that Saskatchewan has been focusing on.  It boggles a thinking man's mind.

Not sure what you are saying about Porcupine Plain and continental bees.  As far as I can see, this is a straw man, and an excuse not to deal with the simple facts and the situation at hand because the decision is too simple.  If Sask is having trouble controlling its own population, what is wrong?  Is it Alberta's freewheeling ways, or Saskatchewan's regime?  There is still a lot of this kind of illogic in the talk coming from Saskatchewan.

I suppose I could go on and argue, but then, I think I've made my point.  Some people will get it, and some won't.   You see, I don't want to change Saskatchewan.  I, and other Albertans, would just like to see Saskatchewan -- and a few other busybody provinces controlling the national organization -- have the decency to butt out of Alberta's business.  After all, it was Saskatchewan people who broke Saskatchewan's embargo, not Alberta people, and we don't want to send anything to Saskatchewan that Saskatchewan does not want.  Why would we?

Good neighbours mind their own business and don't try to tell one another what to do.  We respect and tolerate Saskatchewan and Saskatchewan ways, and don't interfere in Saskatchewan doing as Saskatchewan pleases.  Can Saskatchewan respect and tolerate us?  I'll need more proof than I saw yesterday.

Anyhow...  Thanks for the feedback.  I appreciate the discussion. 

Here's more:

When I stated the OLD ways... a better term may have been the traditional ways... and traditional disrespectful to the apiaries act in Saskatchewan. The law was broken and that it was done in a way to snub authority. Rules and regulations are put in place and meant for the good of the all and not just for the good of the one! I state this in respect to the Porcupine Plain incident.

Okay.  I can see we have philosophical differences.  I think it may be fair to say that Saskatchewan tends to be socialist and collectivist in its thinking, and that Alberta tends to be libertarian.   In Alberta, we the beekeepers make the laws and then decide whether we need to enforce them.  Usually, we decide we don't.  We do have laws, but I cannot remember the last prosecution.  Matters are settled by group discussion, arm wrestling, moral suasion, and co-operation, rather than enforcement.  I think Medhat is going to fit right in.  He has said he does not want to be an enforcer, and I am sure his charm and powers of reason will ensure continued peace and co-operation.

I understand the decision that Saskatchewan, made and the obvious benefits that have come from it.  What is much less apparent and not a polite subject for discussion in Saskatchewan -- apparently -- is:

  • the costs of that decision, in terms of lost freedom and lost profits,
  • who has paid and who continues to pay the cost -- and
  • at what point the embargo should end.

Moreover, it seems that Saskatchewan somehow feels so smug and superior that its values and laws should influence what Albertans do in their own province. In Alberta, we decided to go a different path and share the costs and benefits differently.  Who is/was right and who was wrong is not a meaningful question.  Our values are just different.  We've handled everything that has come along so far and we believe we can handle anything else that is on the horizon, if we can work with our American partners.  We are free traders and fair traders.  We just wish to be -- as our constitutional allies, the Quebecois, say -- "maitres chez nous".

I suppose at this time, it might be a good idea to mention the existence of the Canadian Commercial Honey Producers Association and to suggest that those Western Canadian beekeepers who feel that CHC is working against their interests and violating their provincial rights, consider joining and supporting this new group.  Here's what the CCHPA says:

"What we hope to accomplish through this organization is to turn the attitude of the honey producing /pollinating industry into a “striving for prosperity” mode verses the current “striving to survive” mode." 

The new group held a meeting in Saskatoon, I think, last fall, and I have not heard the outcome.  I was away, and did not attend.  Although Brent and I spent some time together at Niagara touring wineries, I neglected to ask about that.

I have not thus far joined the CCHPA personally, but am now reconsidering diverting my support from the CHC to CCHPA.

Today..Becoming mainly sunny this morning. Wind light. High plus 2. Tonight..Partly cloudy. Wind light. Low minus 9. Normals for the period..Low minus 14. High minus 2.

Monday 3 February 2003
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We've sold off enough hives now that I am not worried about the rest.  We still have a few, plus trucks and forklifts, to sell.  I have a buyer coming tomorrow to make a deal on 200.  That takes us down to 1,600.  We can let more go, but the pressure is off.

As for about 800-1,200 of the remaining balance, it looks as if we will set up a new company, take on a partner and step back to simply managing the business during transition.  We're working on the details -- but assuming this works out, it'll be the best of both worlds.  I'll still be involved in the business, but be able to step back over time from the day-to-day.  The deal is, of course, not completely put together, and subject to all the usual last minute problems, but it appears likely to fly.

If we are approached for more hives before the deal is cemented, we may sell more now, for cash, but we'll see.  We have options.  It is looking more and more as if there will be a feeding frenzy coming up as beekeepers discover that honey prices are rising, not falling, and that they are short of bees.

Australian packages for this spring are still in question.  Even if the authorities continue to permit import of Australian packages -- which might appear to be preferential treatment over the US, now that SHB is in Oz and varroa in NZ -- there is the question of air transport. 

Apparently the newer planes can't carry bees in the same way that the wide body planes did.  I'm not sure of the details -- I guess I should have listened a bit better -- but that is a problem, along with the inability of shippers to book the space in advance, pending decisions.  The shippers don't know whether it  is go or no-go, either, so some will undoubtedly decide it is not worth the hassle.

Add to that the buoyancy in the Australian dollar, and the increased landed price and the uncertainty of receiving packages alive, if at all, and there could be a huge price squeeze when everyone realizes at once that they have lost bees over winter due to canola honey reserves from the late canola bloom, and that they cannot get any replacements.

Last year, even without the current problems, many beekeepers went without package bees.  Some Australian packages 'burned up' in shipment, and other orders were simply not filled by the suppliers.  Of those that did get Australian packages, some complained about the queens and some beekeepers even replaced them all.

An added consideration -- even if Canada allows Australian packages -- is whether restrictive jurisdictions like Saskatchewan will permit them entry due to the lack of assurance that SHB will not ride in them.  Further, even if the provinces permit them entry, will individual beekeepers wish to take a chance on getting a new pest?

If the same rules and reasoning are applied to Australian and New Zealand imports that are applied to the mainland USA, Canadian authorities are faced with some tough decisions.  Already there are questions being openly asked about favouritism and anti-Americanism.  If Canada is willing to trade with countries known to have pests and which do not have resistant stock, how can Canada in good conscience refuse to consider importation of high quality stock from our best friends and closest neighbours?

So far there has been no strong pressure by the US to open the Canada/US border, but these recent events may tip the scales.  Already some Canadian provinces have expressed a

willingness to import US stock -- variously packages, queens or breeding stock -- if protocols can be worked out to ensure safety from known hazards.  This seems possible, but the only obstacle is political.  The current structure of the industry in Canada is such that distant and/or unaffected provinces can, and do, capriciously block the legitimate desires of other provinces.

The argument is made that if any mainland US bees are allowed into any part of Canada, they must be allowed into all.  That is obvious poppycock, since the US border was closed in two stages, in different years. Moreover, jurisdictions like Saskatchewan currently block import of any bees they wish to block, including bees from Alberta.  Saskatchewan even controls movement of bees within the province.  Other provinces do not chose to do so.

Province by province relaxation of the embargo is entirely possible, but uninformed arguments and fear mongering have drowned out  rational discussion.  Even intelligent and well-intentioned people are distracted by lies, half-truths and propaganda from those who benefit by limiting trade or controlling others and limiting industry growth.

The simple fact is that the requirements, the opportunities, the shortages, and the risks are not at all uniform throughout Canada.  The current situation pits the local interests and concerns of each province against those of other provinces, and pits region against region. The available resources, length of season and and climate vary widely.   There is no 'one size fits all' solution, nor should there be.  This is not legitimately a federal question, but rather a provincial, or even local one.

Those provinces or localities that wish to stay isolated can do so without forcing others to do so, assuming that they can maintain the co-operation of their local populations --  local solutions for local problems.

There is no current justification for closing the entire Canada/US border to satisfy one region or another.  Let each province set its own rules.  If we can import packages from some regions of Australia and not others under controls agreed by the parties directly involved, then obviously we can import bees from some parts of the US mainland to some parts of Canada and not others.

Any other conclusion is dishonest.


 This just in, after I wrote the above...

Dr. Samira Belaissaoui - Canadian Food inspection Agency, (CFIA), Heather Clay - Canadian Honey Council (CHC) and Doug McRory - Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists, (CAPA) have just completed a conference call at 12:15 P.M., Friday January 31, 2003 about the above subject. The following conditions were agreed to by Heather Clay representing (CHC) and Doug McRory (CAPA) and are as follows:

  • that the shipping beekeeping establishment's bee yards are all free of Small Hive Beetles and they shall be located at least 25 kilometers from any known finds of Small Hive Beetles.
  • in the case of queen bees, they shall be fresh caught and not banked before shipment.
  • Australian honey bee inspection will inspect all locations for Small Hive Beetles from which either queens or package bees are to be shipped to Canada within 30 days prior to shipment.

It is critical that the Import permits be made available to Canadian importers as soon as possible so that arrangements can be made to in fact obtain the bees....


 and this...

...Regarding spread of the beetle and the rationale for an exclusion zone, we are thinking in terms of the beetle's flight distance rather than "artificial" spread with movement of infested hives. The honey industry in Australia is quite mobile and moves hives over large distances - to the extent that a 25 or even 40 km exclusion zone would be almost irrelevant. The distances covered here would appear to be much greater than what you describe for Canada. As mentioned above there are currently no compulsory movement restrictions but apiarists are under considerable peer pressure to avoid moving infested hives.

Regarding queens with escorts in cages, it would be feasible for a government apiary officer to have inspected the source apiary within the previous 30 days. However, given the seasonal nature of the trade and the tight time frame for preparation of shipments, we would not have government resources to inspect each individual queen and escorts - we would propose to rely on a signed declaration from the owner/manager that they have examined each cage at the time of packing and found no evidence of small hive beetle.

Gene sequencing work has been done on the Australian strain of small hive beetle. The work was done in the light of a US study on a large sample (some 140) of strains there which showed that broadly, the USA has two source strains of small hive beetle. The sequence found here was dissimilar to the US strains but identical to a strain found in Durban, South Africa, which had previously been characterised. For that reason, we suspect that the Australian beetle originated from southern Africa somewhere. These differences are are of limited to the genetic sequences. We are aware of some misinformed discussion that the beetle in Australia is "a different variety" from the US beetle but this is not true. We do not have sufficient information to determine whether the Australian strain is more or less damaging than the US strains. The amount of damage from small hive beetle seen here seems to be less than that reported in Florida in recent times but it is too early to confirm! this subjective observation...

The highlighting is mine.  I don't understand why, if the discussion was indeed misinformed about the beetle being different, why the writer then continues to refer to the 'US strains' and speculate as to the differences in destructiveness.

I am not a biologist and am uncertain of the technical differences between a 'strain' and a 'variety'.  I thought I'd look the words up. 

Variety \Va*ri"e*ty\, n.; pl. {Varieties}. [L. varietas: cf. F.   vari['e]t['e]. See {Various}.(Biol.)

 An individual, or group of individuals, of a species differing from the rest in some one or more of the characteristics typical of the species, and capable either of perpetuating itself for a period, or of being perpetuated by artificial means; hence, a subdivision, or peculiar form, of a species.

Geographical variety} (Biol.), a variety of any species which is coincident with a geographical region, and is usually dependent upon, or caused by, peculiarities of climate.

 Strain \Strain\, n. (Hort.)   A cultural subvariety that is only slightly differentiated.

(biology) a group of organisms within a species that differ in trivial ways from similar groups; "a new strain of microorganisms" [syn: {form}, {variant}, {var.}]

It appears that these are technical biologist's words and the report was made in lay terms, so I can see there is a subtle technical confusion, but I still don't get the point.  The beetles are visibly different, and the other differences unknown.  Moreover there are no controls on bee movement in the area in question and people are free to move bees around.  25 km is nothing in terms of distance. 

 If we were talking about the continental US here, what would be happening?  The US can guarantee much larger separations, inspections and certifications on at least some exports and yet, every time there has been a suggestion of a limited, controlled importation of US bees, the same Canadian powers that are rushing to condone this risky importation of Australian stock stymie the effort. 

I ask you now, what are the  possible motivations for such behavior?

Here we see that there are no controls, the distances are short, we know that Aussies are a macho, independent lot, and move bees all over the place and, moreover, the only assurance is on the honour system.

What's wrong with this picture, kids?   Let's play fair -- with everyone!

I don't know if anyone has tried the Panda online scan at the bottom of this page, but I highly recommend it.  It does not cost, and, of course, I do not get anything out of your using it.  It is just an excellent free service.  I'll bet it finds something on your machine.  I'm curious.  Please let me know.

FWIW, here's the report from the first scan I did on this new computer!

Incident Status Location

Bck/IRC.Ricker Disinfected C:\Documents and Settings\Allen\My Documents\New Files\registry.exe

Bck/IRC.Ricker Disinfected C:\Documents and Settings\Allen\My Documents\New Files\Sequoia.exe

EICAR-AV-TEST-FILE Disinfected C:\P2\DC\Test.___________

W32/MTX Disinfected C:\P2\DC\Windows\Profiles\allend\Application Data\Mozilla\Users50\allend\jvpsngl0.slt\Mail\mail.i n t e r n o d e .net\Outlook Mail.sbd\Personal Folders.sbd\Deleted Items[HANSON.SCR]

W97M/Marker.AO Disinfected C:\P2\DC\Windows\Profiles\allend\Application Data\Mozilla\Users50\allend\jvpsngl0.slt\Mail\mail.i n t e r n o d e.net\Outlook Mail.sbd\Personal Folders.sbd\Inbox.sbd\Apicultura[Vaselina.zip][Vaselina I.doc]

W97M/Marker.AO Disinfected C:\P2\DC\Windows\Profiles\allend\Application Data\Mozilla\Users50\allend\jvpsngl0.slt\Mail\mail.i n t e r n o d e.net\Outlook Mail.sbd\Personal Folders.sbd\Inbox.sbd\Inbox History[timetabl.doc]

W97M/Marker.AO Disinfected C:\P2\DC\Windows\Profiles\allend\Application Data\Mozilla\Users50\allend\jvpsngl0.slt\Mail\mail.i n t e r n o d e.net\Outlook Mail.sbd\Personal Folders.sbd\Inbox.sbd\Inbox History[timetabl.doc]

Exploit/iFrame Disinfected Local Folders\Inbox\Re: Ismap alt

Some of these files were in imported archives from an old machine, and only the iframe exploit was active, but I thought that this is pretty darn good... and the scan disinfected the files too.  I was a bit sad to see the EICAR test file disinfected, but what the heck.  The scan is thorough, I'll give it that.

It's noon, and it is snowing.  Paulo came in earlier and went to Meijers to sample all the drums that Dennis had failed to sample when we they were filling them.

I've recently reduced my involvement in BEE-L, and I've taken my comments about my experience at the Saskatchewan meeting off this page.  I'm beginning to understand something I never could quite understand before, and that is why the rational people and those with the most knowledge and background and experience -- and who actually understand the issues --  often (usually) stay out of the public side of industry debates.  I've seen this on BEE-L and I've seen it at meetings, and been puzzled by that fact.  I think I have it figured out now.

Ellen and some polystyrene hives

Leroy is coming tomorrow to buy some hives and so Ellen & I decided we'd better go take a look first.  I'd hate to take him out and have a big surprise.  The only hives I've looked in in the past month are several that were left behind when we sold a yard and moved it out, and the ones that are in the north yard and were made up from honey house window bees.  They hadn't looked too wonderful, so I was starting to wonder (worry).

We drove to three yards and every hive of the twenty or so we looked into were absolutely top notch.  None of them are all the way up yet,  so they have lots of feed.  It breaks my heart to sell them, the bees are so good, and the value of the honey in them alone is almost worth the price.  Many are wintering on honey, since they did not take much feed last fall.  One cluster was a bit small, but I could tell by looking at the bees that they are just fine. 

A good hive of bees

We did see one dead hive, but it had been marked as dead last fall.  I suspect it was only a handful of bees when it was wrapped.  At any rate, we were quite cheerful on returning home, assured that, unless something happens, we are looking at normal loss or less.  Right now I can't see more than 1%, but by May 10 to 15% loss is normal.

The hives shown here are made of expanded polystyrene.  We transferred the bees into them very late last fall.  I was a bit concerned about disrupting them that late, but we simply inverted the brood boxes,  pushed the entire mass of frames out of each box, and slid the new box down over, then set them upright and placed them on the new stands.  So far they look good, and clusters might be just a little looser than in the wooden boxes.

Almonds are blooming in California.  Here's where to go to follow the bloom.

Speaking of Oz, here's a nice feedback note I got from down under

Tuesday February 04, 2003 12:20 AM

Hi Allen,

Took your advice, and scanned my computer hard disk using Panda......enormous number of files checked.....no viruses found. Then ran scan on my email. 9 viruses found and disinfected....all in deleted items. (2 were in BEE-L mailings) . I'm sure most of these were detected by AVG at the time in attachments and I received a warning, which is why I deleted them. So why are they still in there? As you can see I'm no computer whizz, ( I'm a beekeeper...I have to use that excuse frequently these days!). So how does one actually delete items so they are totally gone, and not lurking around in the background somewhere, waiting to surface when one least expects it and crash the system?

I enjoy reading your diary, because its SO different to the beekeeping we do here in Western Australia. I was alarmed to read your report about finding varroa in packages from Oz when you first noted it and again when you mentioned it again recently. You may not have elicited any public response, but believe me we all scurried off to look for the little critters!!! Found nothing and still finding nothing.  Your comments re Hygienic bees have been taken to heart here in the west, and some of us are trying hard to lift our game in selecting for these characteristics. The logistics are somewhat more difficult for us I suspect, but we'll get there.

Hope you enjoy your retirement, but from recent entries, it doesn't sound like a real retirement to me!!!

Thanks, mate

Appreciate the feedback.  As for those items, I think AVG quarantines them, but lets you decide if you want to flush them.  There is something called the 'virus vault', where it segregates them.  You can go there from the  Program | Virus_Vault menu and look at them -- and kill them, or just run Panda again with the 'Clean' check box checked. (I think).

I'm glad you did not find varroa.  You don't need it.  I've been pleased to find that they have not been nearly as bad as expected here, but maybe it is just dumb luck.

As for HYG bees, I'm glad you are working in that direction.  The bees I got from Aus have mostly been great, except in that one regard.  A few generations of selection should work wonders.  Not only should you get rid of the chalkbrood (I had up to 30% in some Aus stock), but it will be the real keystone in eliminating AFB forever.  Your overseas customers will enjoy the benefits too. 

We're seeing much more HYG here in domestic and Hawaiian stock, and much less AFB.  I suspect that with universal attention to that trait, that AFB may become a rarity, even in this part of the world.

As for retirement, it terrifies me as it gets closer and closer.  I may cut back, but I cannot imagine getting completely out.

Thanks for writing.


We drove to Drumheller and joined Oene and Joe at the 'Fred and Barney's' (Chinese) restaurant for supper .

Today..Cloudy. 30 percent chance of flurries. Wind light. High minus 1. Tonight..Mainly cloudy. Wind becoming north 20 km/h. Low minus 7. Normals for the period..Low minus 13. High minus 2.

Tuesday 4 February 2003
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Leroy and Jerry came by this morning, and Leroy looked over the hives he is buying.  We did the deal today, and he'll pick them up in March, after the chance of a major cold snap is lower.  We're concerned that they might be damaged if they are stimulated by moving, then immediately subjected to nasty weather.

We had a good visit and lunch, then they were on their way.  Our price is at $210 each for doubles, as-is, where-is.  We'll remove any obvious duds at this point, but otherwise, buyers take all the hives in the yard.  I'm told the price in March/April others are asking is $250.  We'll see.  Next month -- assuming we still want to sell some -- we expect to be asking $230.

Here's a note from a regular contributor who has -- in the past -- proven to have his finger on the pulse of the US industry:

It was 65 degrees at the farm Saturday & #1 son was very pleased when walking into bee yards as to the amount of bee flight from every hive. We have had almost no winter loss & with the equipment we have sent to Texas for singles, the facts have hit home in realization that we are going to run out of supers real fast when spring rolls around.

I thought it would be smart to pre pay for queens & get them reserved & I am glad I did. Seems from what I am hearing some queen & package people are reducing the size of operations & are either leasing there bees out for honey production. Or just cutting back to eliminate the hired help headache. If the border was to open back up to the north for packages & queens I would be surprised if the states could meet the demand.

Allen, as I have told you in the past that years ago I found it a heck of a lot easier to know that you have the mites & learn to deal with them as to worry as to when they would arrive. With the stock we use I only have to treat for varroa. The other mite is no longer a problem. And from the looks of some of the bottom boards almost all the mites viewed under a microscope are missing at least 2 legs & some are missing more. I may not treat for varroa in the not to near future.

As I've said, varroa has proven to be a minor threat here, but I know that some Alberta beekeepers have been unable to manage them.  Others may not even treat, or treat very minimally, since their management systems are based on annual splitting and gassing of the old colonies. I understand these latter people winter in the warm parts of BC, however.


Here is another aspect of the package bee question.  Whether you happen to favour Australian packages or US packages, or neither, this is food for thought.  Bob is writing about opening the US to import of Australian bees.   He has a history of shooting from the hip, but seems to hit somewhere near the target often enough to be taken seriously.

Date: Mon, 4 Nov 2002 07:20:55 -0600
From: Bob Harrison <busybeeacres@DISCOVERYNET.COM>
Subject: Re: Feelings Of Insecurity about Bee Biosecurity

Hello All, Package bee sellers in the U.S. have spread mites, SHB and many other beekeeping problems far greater than the migratory beekeeper ever did (in my opinion) but blaming the migratory beekeeper kept the heat off the package seller .

The package bee seller knew the migratory beekeeper could care less about public opinion and would not rebuke the blame.

This year the problem of packages infested with varroa has been so bad that many package buyers had their hives so infested by fall the hives were over threshold. Every SHB find in Missouri has been traced back to packages from a package seller.

Our U.S. queen and package sellers can easily supply the U.S. needs.

Why import future problems? Let us keep our borders shut and hope the package sellers( NOT ALL ) in the U.S. which are shipping packages around the country with high loads of varroa and SHB read my post and *hear* from each beekeeper which received SHB or a package with a high varroa load.

A package from a hive which has a low varroa load should not reach threshold in August! Many commercial beekeepers have never bought a mite strip. They simply bought packages and depopulated the hives in the fall. Lately they are finding their hives over threshold before the end of the season. The reason is the packages are heavily varroa infested when installed.

If we cannot keep packages coming out of the south with SHB and high varroa loads how are we to keep new beekeeping problems from coming in from outside our borders. Especially when those breeders are on the honor system?



I'm trying to keep somewhat neutral on this whole matter.  After all, I actually am in a position where I personally benefit from the closed border because I am selling bees, and the closure keeps the price of bees and equipment artificially high!  Anyhow, here is an interesting note:

Hello Allen;

Read with interest your earlier comments about the Sask meeting shortly before heading off to the Manitoba meeting.  They are a protective bunch in Sask.  Wink was in Manitoba, asked how many Manitoba beekeepers would support Alberta's request for the possible importation of queens from the U.S. this spring'.   Got a negative response.  

It seems our board of directors elected last Nov. is only an interim board, subject to an government review of our election process. This having something to do with the voters list and possible ineligible voters elected a pro open border board! The politics of beekeeping.

I personally think the only reason the border was closed and remains closed is that some bureaucrat wants to cover his ass in case the African bee arrives in Canada.  I remember Don Peer saying "the border is closed, never to be opened again.".  Must BE SOMETHING IN THE WATER IN SASK TO MAKE A BEEKEEPER THINK LIKE THAT.

Your site remains a daily stop, good information.  Keep up the good work.  Thank you for the info and your insights.

And thank you! 

I enjoyed these comments.  I think that Medhat's intent was actually to sound out the idea informally, and develop workable scenarios, not to take it --cold and unformed -- to the floor where surprised and alarmed beekeepers would predictably react with hostility to the new and foreign-sounding idea, since, on first blush, it sounds so much like an idea they have been opposing.

Don Peer

I recall, some 33 years ago, when I was first about to set up beekeeping in Alberta, writing Dr. Peer asking advice on my (somewhat simplistic and idealistic) plans.  He wrote back a long and very thoughtful letter explaining where I would go wrong, and how I could make my plan work.

I've never forgotten that, and if there is one experience that has caused me to want to share what I have learned in beekeeping -- once I got to the point where I had something worth sharing --  it is that example of neighborliness to a (stupid?) unknown kid in Alberta by Dr. Peer, whom I had never met at that time.

I did meet him later on a number of occasions, and know he was a man of strong opinions, and some of his opinions I could not support.  I guess I learned something from that too.  Nonetheless, I always did respect him.

We sometimes forget that we are all very close and interdependent in this industry.  Only a tiny, tiny percentage of the population in this world cares much for bugs, especially prickly ones, so we have that one thing in common and must stick together.  I realize that we beekeepers often come down on different sides of issues, and sometimes there are rigid positions and examples of destructive behaviour, but through all that the fact remains that we beekeepers are like family.  In some ways we are even closer.

When we allow ourselves to be driven by fears and ignorance and propaganda and rigid positions, we all lose.  When we take the time to get together and consider the facts, and put aside our own fears and problems and understand the legitimate needs and concerns of others, and compromise a bit, we are able to accomplish a lot.

Today..Cloudy with a 30 percent chance of early morning flurries then a mix of sun and cloud. Wind northwest 20 km/h. High minus 1.  Tonight..Mainly cloudy with 60 percent chance of flurries towards morning. Wind northwest 20. Low minus 4.  Normals for the period..Low minus 13. High minus 1.

Wednesday 5 February 2003
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This note is in response to the criticisms from Saskatchewan that Alberta does not raise queens, etc.

Hi Allen,

There are fifteen longtime queen producers in the Peace River area that I am familiar with. The exact numbers produced no doubt varies from year to year. I have left out some producers who have raised queens in the past and have quit, and I no doubt left out some newer beekeepers with whom I am unfamiliar. The fifteen that I know produce between 25,000 and 30,000 queens on any given year.

The Edmonton area produces roughly 2,500 queens according to local sources. Northeast Alberta may not produce as many queens, but this area has some very good queen producers as well.

I would estimate that the province produces 35,000 to 40,000 queens on an annual basis. I don't know of anyone in Southern Alberta, but I am sure that some must be produced there.


An importer of Australian packages comments:

Hi Allen: I thought I'd let you know that the Australian package and queen suppliers have yet to receive an official response from the Canadian authorities. The delays are causing them some concerns. CFIA told me to apply for an import permit in a couple more days.

Things are starting to finally get lined up. Korea purchases many packages from Australia starting in mid-February. Apparently they are sending a delegation to Australia.

We should try to keep an eye on that, and see if they accidentally import SHB.


I continue to get correspondence resulting from my comments on the Saskatchewan meeting.  I have discovered that the philosophical and political differences between liberal (in the classical sense of the word, not in the Canadian political sense)  Alberta and authoritarian Saskatchewan are not easily resolved, but this came up in the discussion.  It makes me very sorry that I did not continue on to Manitoba...

--- begin report ---

One astonishing statement made at the convention was the use of coumaphous on Apistantm resistant mites.... had the biggest affect on honey production.... less than one third the honey from a  Checkmite+ tm treated colony to an untreated colony.

And the bad news continued... queen problems brood size and winter cluster size were possible results of the coumaphous treatment...

The statement was made by Rob Currie and is part of the information going into the emergency certification of Checkmite in Canada. So the study... ummm what is done is done. The results stand for themselves.

Like I stated this study that he had presented IS the study that will go to the appropriate Gov of Canada departments. It was his power point graphs that clearly showed this fact. It was tHis who had stated the cluster sizes etc.. and there smallness in comparison to untreated colonies. I can comment no further just hope that he too will be in Edmonton.

--- end report ---

I've since heard from Rob that the above report is pretty much all based on misunderstanding and I will publish Rob's comments if I get permission to do so.

Today..Occasional snow. Wind north 30 gusting 50 km/h giving blowing snow in open areas. Wind diminishing to north 20 this morning. High minus 1 this morning then temperature falling. Tonight..Mainly cloudy. 60 percent chance of flurries. Wind light. Low minus 8. Normals for the period..Low minus 13. High minus 1.

Thursday 6 February 2003
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This page is getting HUGE.  I need to take time from it and get a life. 

Thing is, though, I love writing and thinking, then rewriting and rethinking.  In the process of writing and sharing the writing, I learn a lot about myself.  I remember back to when I started, I was awful.  when I re-read my work a while later, I'd shudder.  But...  practice makes perfect, and now, when I look back on what I've written, I usually feel a little pride.  Not all the time, though.  Often I find logical holes or bad syntax.  Sometimes I just rip it up.  Nonetheless, most of the time, I'm saying what I want to say, the way I want to say it.

That's not to say that I do not write and rewrite.  I rewrite constantly.  Without a word processor, my work would be gibberish.  I truly often wonder how I am able to make myself understood when I talk, when I consider how carefully and how often I have to refine and revise what I write to make it say what I truly mean, and no more.  As an example, I just rewrote that last sentence and modified it at least ten times just now, and I may revise it again tomorrow.

Not only that, I can't type.  I did learn years ago, then got a Commodore Pet in the late seventies it had a 'Chicklet' miniature keyboard and my typing has never been the same.  Dave Green watched me typing at the ABF meeting in Virginia a few years back and marveled that I got anything written at all.  He described watching me as 'painful'.

Yesterday I started exercising again.  I did a mile on the treadmill and some weight training.  It can be hard to get started, but once underway, exercise is invigorating; I can notice a change of mood and increase in energy during, and for some time afterwards.   I've been less careful what I put in my mouth lately, and am starting to pay the price.  I'm at 242 when I weigh and my belt is out two notches, plus I'm noticing some joint pain.  I think the latter is diet-related.  I suspect white flour, but I know that alcohol has an effect on my immune system.  The occasional drink does not seem to matter, but, with all the meetings lately, I've been less temperate than I like to be.

Paulo has been coming in to work this week, tidying and sampling honey and wax drums.  We have a load and a half here still, and also 60 drums of wax and cappings.  They have to go somewhere sometime soon.  I'm planning to send the wax to Paradis Honey.  We haven't called Dennis in, since we  are to busy to spend time in constant supervision.  As for Dave, we have not heard from him since December.

Today..Sunny. Wind light. High plus 5.  Tonight..Partly cloudy. Wind northwest 20 km/h. Low minus 5.  Normals for the period..Low minus 13. High minus 1.

Friday 7 February 2003
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Ellen discovered some broken frames yesterday and we brought in Dennis today to get that job done.  Hopefully he and Paulo will be able to get all the wax ready for pickup early next week.

Bill mentioned the other day that Opera 7.01, the final release version, is now out for free download.  I had quit using Opera after the 7 beta came out and I found it was not quite like the Opera 6, which I liked.  I went back to MSIE for a while.  Yesterday, I downloaded the release and installed my key (I purchased Opera some time back).  Wow!  It is fast and good.  I love the interface, but I did change the skin to a compact button set.  The factory skin is a bit big and clunky.  I haven't finished testing the java and javascript yet, but so far it looks good -- far better than before.  I was finding MSIE very slow, and Opera is blindingly fast compared to IE.

 of the Day

Today..Increasing cloud. 60 percent chance of flurries this afternoon. Wind increasing to north 30 gusting 50 km/h. High plus 3 then temperature falling this afternoon. Tonight..Cloudy with occasional snow. Wind north 20. Low minus 7.  Normals for the period..Low minus 13. High minus 1.

Saturday 8 February 2003
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The RCR snow report just arrived via email.  At 5:25 this AM (now) there are 20 cms (8 in) fresh snow overnight at Nakiska.  Excellent.  I feel like going to BC and Nakiska is along the way, BUT I have some fairly pressing things stacked up here to do, and I still have some procrastination to finish before I get to them.  What to do?

I went back to bed.  I'll get a few things done here today.  promise!

The market for honey slowed for a while, and I guess the Argentine crop is still unknown; Feb 8 in the Argentine is like Aug 8 here, and still early for a good estimate. Nonetheless, prices continue firm. A broker told me yesterday that he had turned down an offer to purchase at $1.60 US in expectation of higher prices. Meanwhile, a number of Canadian packers are meeting in Ottawa and I'm told that, among other things, they are trying to figure out how to limit and reduce the prices paid to beekeepers. Over this past season, the offers from those in that group have been amazingly similar from one to another, but I know they would not be price fixing, because that would be illegal.

With better communication between beekeepers, buyers are finding it tough to fool the beekeepers and it is worrying them. Some of these buyers still manage to find a few beekeepers who are out of touch and buy cheap -- I've seen it happen -- but with the internet and hotlines like the Mid-US hotline (1-763-658-4193) more beekeepers know what the market price is, and the old tricks do not work as well.

Claims of retail buyer resistance made by some packers' are not being met with much belief or sympathy, either, since beekeepers can find out the facts. As always, some accounts are changing hands, and some, like MacDonald's, are switching from honey to something else, but this last item is due to concerns about honey quality in the wake of the Chinese chlorampenicol recall (caused by their own policy of buying the cheapest), not price. Apparently some packers are losing business, but others are doing just fine. While some packers are complaining about the price, these others are realizing that the (revenue) size of their business just doubled! Margins may not be what they were, but the profits are still there for the smart ones and will creep back up.

The current price bump is due to quality problems with Chinese honey. In the near future, we are going to see increased demands for quality assurance and smart beekeepers are starting to think about better record keeping and diverting some of the windfalls of this past season towards improving facilities and moving in the direction of HACCP. When the current countervail actions wear off, the only factor that will keep prices up for the beekeeper is quality assurance. Volume buyers and packers -- and their insurance companies -- are going to want proof that what happened with Chinese honey does not happen again.

In five years, I predict that beekeepers who cannot provide convincing documentation of their management and handling practices may not be able to sell honey in any developed country.

I spent the day working at my desk and tidying.

Today..Snow tapering off this morning. Further accumulations 1 to 2 cm. Wind light. High minus 1. Tonight..Snow redeveloping overnight. Wind north 30 km/h. Low minus 5.  Normals for the period..Low minus 13. High minus 1.

Sunday 9 February 2003
Last year on this date     Year 2001 on this date  Year 2000 on this date  Write me
I spent the day looking for some good investments and doing other research  When we sell all our bees, we'll have to invest the retirement funds. seems that there are not a lot of secure, high paying investments out there right now.

I also read some of Dewey Caron's Africanized Honey Bees in the Americas.  It's an excellent book; a half-hour with the book easily answers questions that years on the internet have not satisfied. 

I have been planning to go snowboarding and then out to BC and the coast for a trip.  When to go is the question.  I was thinking of leaving first thing tomorrow morning, but may leave later in the day or Tuesday.

Today..Cloudy with flurries. Wind northwest 20 km/h. High plus 1. Tonight..Cloudy with flurries. Wind increasing to north 30. Low minus 6. Normals for the period..Low minus 13. High minus 1.

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