Sask. updates legislation covering bee industry

Legislation to modernize apiary operation has received third reading in the Saskatchewan Legislature.

The bill updates 2005 legislation and puts the province in line with other places, said agriculture minister David Marit.

Key among the changes is that beekeepers are considered livestock producers and are therefore required to have a premises identification number.

During second reading debate earlier in the legislative session Marit noted that would duplicate the beekeeper registry for honeybees under the old act.

“The PID system has combined with the beekeeper registry to reduce administrative work and red tape,” Marit said.

The minister also said that scientific advances mean changes are required for feeding bees.

In 2005, it was thought that if foraging bees were attracted to honeybee feeds it would spread disease between colonies, but there is now no proof of this, he said.

“The Apiaries Act, 2019 will allow beekeepers to utilize the time-saving technique of open feeding bees over a particular time period, while also minimizing the risk of contaminating honey with foreign sugars,” Marit said.

The new act makes American foulbrood a notifiable disease, and it puts in place a number of provisions for regulatory compliance to prevent disease. For example, it outlines when beekeepers must remove abandoned equipment so that it doesn’t become a nesting site for feral honeybees that may carry disease.

The act increases maximum fines for contravening the act from $10,000 to $25,000.

NDP agriculture critic Yens Pedersen is a fifth-generation beekeeper. He said protecting the health of honeybees is critical but they are only one species of the about 300 found in the province.

He said American foulbrood is a bacterial disease that is highly contagious and can’t be treated.

“If you discover American foulbrood in a colony of bees, you basically have to destroy the colony so that it doesn’t spread to either your other beehives or other beekeepers’ beehives,” he said.

During June 17 committee debate on the bill, provincial apiculture specialist Geoff Wilson said the province tracks how many hives are destroyed each year and he noted that five had been destroyed just the day before.

There are about 100 commercial beekeepers in Saskatchewan.

Contact karen.briere@producer.com

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