Yesterday, Stats Canada released honey bee numbers for 2016. Canada now has more colonies ever. That’s right – more hives of honey bees than ever, in all of our recorded history. Our numbers are now over 750,000 colonies.
The last time Canada had a big colony count ramp-up was in the mid-1980s. We reached 707,000 colonies in 1986. Then, over the next three years, our colony count collapsed to below 500,000 hives in 1991. It wasn’t bee disease or CCD that caused Canada’s colony collapse. It was a new law that stopped honey bee imports from the USA. Canadian bees that died during our long brutally cold winters couldn’t be cheaply replaced so about one-third of Canada’s beekeepers left the bee business. The mistake cost Canadian beekeepers millions of dollars and shows what happens when people who don’t know much about beekeeping make the rules.
Canada has finally had a few good years, but I predict that colony counts will be down a little next year, this time because the wholesale price of honey has fallen quite a lot. Some beekeepers will probably not replace all of their winter dead-outs. As a result, I think Canada’s colonies will number fewer than 700,000 in 2017.
Canada’s 2016 honey production is estimated as 92.2 million pounds. That’s a 123 pound per hive average. Respectable, but not Canada’s best – that was 1998 when the national average was 180 pounds per colony. Few other places on Earth are as prolific, nor do they make the delicious snow-white honey that’s found in Canada.
What happened to the import restrictions? Is that still in effect?
Thanks for post! Nice to see the numbers recover from the 80’s
LikeLiked by 1 person
Yes, the restrictions against package bees have been in effect for 30 years and are still strictly enforced. The reason for the embargo was to keep varroa out, though it’s been widespread here for about 25 years. Government just never got around to fixing the law. Packages (at about $220/each) have been coming in from Oceania (NZ & Australia) and queens mostly from Hawaii, Chile and the south Pacific. Pretty expensive way to keep colony count up.
Total colony numbers in Canada are entirely because of politics, economics, and good/bad beekeeping, not disease, pest, or poison problems. If good honey prices return, numbers will go up in a hurry again.
LikeLiked by 1 person
It does seem kind of silly, especially since NZ now has all the same pests.
Pingback: 2016 in Bee Review | How To Raise Bees