Want to keep N.L. bees healthy? Stop imports, says beekeepers group

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Want to keep N.L. bees healthy? Stop imports, says beekeepers group

Newfoundland and Labrador's bee population is healthy and thriving, and the key to keeping it that way is stopping bee imports, says the Newfoundland and Labrador Beekeeping Association.

The spread of pests and diseases is decimating bee population across the world, but not in this province.

Catherine Dempsey, president of the association, said the local bee population is disease free, and she wants to ensure that doesn't change.

"We're concerned that if people bring bees in from away … they could bring in diseased bees," said Dempsey.

The group is so worried they've contacted Canada Post to ask that postal stations across the province contact them or the provincial government if packaged bees are found to be arriving in the mail.

N.L. currently allows the importation of disease-free honeybees from Western Australia, but bees from other provinces are strictly off limits.

Dempsey is particularly concerned about bees that are carrying Varroa Mite, a parasite that's hurt bee populations in Canadian provinces like New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

"P.E.I. was Varroa Mite-free up until a few years ago when a cottager who had a place in Ontario bought his bees from Ontario," she said.

"Within a year they had Varroa Mite across the entire province."

Important to protect future of bees in N.L.

While Dempsey said it's exciting that more people are getting involved with beekeeping each year, it's important they know what they're getting into.

"They think of getting bees like getting a bird feeder in their backyard. That you just go out and buy it and put it up and you're a beekeeper," she said.

"It's not like that. There's a lot to learn. It's going to take you about a year to get ready."

Dempsey said the goal is to educate the public about the proper way to get involved in beekeeping so that the practice has a sustainable future in N.L.

"This could become very important to the province along with all the other agricultural industries that are growing and we need a chance to get it going."