Fatal bee scourge continues

Posted by Christine, July 11, 2011

Mike Paradis’s family has staked its livelihood on bees for eight generations.

The tradition began in France and spread to Canada in the 1800s, when one of Mr. Paradis’s ancestors arrived in Quebec by ship, bees in tow. The family still has a beekeeping presence in the province, as well as in Alberta, where six members look after about 15,000 hives.

Yet, for the first time, one of Canada’s oldest beekeeping families faces an uncertain future. Like many honey producers across the country and in other parts of the world, its bees are dying at an alarming rate. One winter about four years ago, Mr. Paradis witnessed 70 per cent of his colonies die. He estimates he’s lost $200,000 in annual revenue for several years now.

“This wintering-loss thing is something that, even with advice from my elders, we haven’t been able to overcome,” said Mr. Paradis, 45, who raises bees in northern Alberta’s Peace Country. “In the next four years, if things don’t turn around, there’s going to be some pretty harsh decisions to be made.”

The plight of beekeepers like Mr. Paradis is sparking a fresh push for answers. A new national bee diagnostic centre is being planned for northern Alberta in response to the insect’s ongoing health crisis. The centre will be Canada’s first laboratory dedicated to probing the cause of honeybee deaths.

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