As for who we are, I'm a commercial beekeeper. I have 50 years of experience in the industry, so among us witnesses today, we have over a hundred years of experience. We do have an idea what's going on in the grassroots.
My situation for my bee losses this year was unique, in that they started planting corn in our area on April 8. At that time, on the Sunday—
No, they started on April 6, but on April 8 I got called by a neighbouring beekeeper within four miles of us who said his bees were coming out of the hives and dying. He asked if that was happening to me. I said that I'd have to go out and check my yard, because we have over 100 hives sitting behind our house and behind our honey house that we use for breeding operations.
I went and checked mine. There was nothing going on. I went and looked at his, and sure enough, they were dying. There was hardly any flying going on because it was just above freezing, and there was a cold wind. They had just planted corn about 600 feet north of him. They had planted 200 acres of corn. The bees had been coming out of there. From talking to him before I came down here, they were still dying, and that's just about two months ago.
As for what happened to me then, it was on the 12th that we were hit with the corn problem. I had talked to the farmer before then and asked him about what was in the corn and what was going on. He didn't have any idea of what was on the corn. He said he just buys it by the bag. They tell him to pay an extra $50 and they call it “fully loaded”. They don't know what's on it for seeding.
I was able to get hold of a label from some of the corn bags. I had heard all the information about what had been going on in the U.S. with the losses, and it looked like it was more of a chemical problem that was killing off the bees than some of the other things they were talking about.
He was getting ready to plant the field around us. It rained and he couldn't plant it for a day, so when he got around to planting it, which was on the 12th, there was frost that morning. The ground was wet, so I thought we were in good shape and we weren't going to have any problems.
Well, he planted it, and within an hour and a half we had bees coming out the front of our hives. I don't know how many of you are beekeepers and understand it, but bees can't maintain flight if they can't maintain a body temperature of 58 degrees. At freezing, they don't even bother coming out of the hive.
The bees started dying and the only thing that made sense was that the poison that was on the corn became airborne and floated across the bee yard. Floating across it.... We have to realize that bees are living organisms and they're giving off carbon dioxide and using oxygen at all times. Inside the middle of a cluster, where the bees are.... And they were super strong bees at that time. We'd fed them three pounds of pollen and they'd had two feedings of syrup because we were trying to get them in shape for our queen-breeding operation.
Well, after that, they started dying off that day and that has continued to this day. As we looked at it on the first two days, we were getting 200 bees dying a day. Now, I realize that it doesn't seem like a lot of bees when you think of the natural mortality, but what's happening with this particular chemical, from everything we've been told in literature.... I have here a copy of the EPA report on it, which we just picked up. I got it before we came. This chemical causes a paralysis of insects and affects their brains, so they die. The bees were dying in front of the hives. We knew it was the chemicals. We had a strong concern, especially knowing that this particular chemical had a half-life of at least 107 days.
So within the hive, we're not only losing the bees that are in front of the hive, within the traps.... We made up some traps to see what was actually happening, because if it was just something lying on the ground, the bees would climb out and away. We looked in the traps. We were finding dead bees and we were finding larvae. In my operation, the odd one had a queen that had died. Without a queen, a hive just collapses.
We are not just losing the bees we find in the trap; we are losing the ones that can't find their way home because of the nature of this chemical.
It was also killing the larvae and brood that were nine days younger. It had to be killing some of the older brood also, because they uncapped it and were pulling out fully developed larvae.
This has been kind of unique. The EPA got in touch with me, because in our yard, we also found a dead robin behind the hive. We realize that in nature, animals always go for the weakest and the most vulnerable. You can find birds in the beehives in the evening, and what they are doing is eating the dead bees that are dying off.
We don't have the reports back on that. We are as curious as anybody to know what happened to it.
Ultimately, the bees are being killed. The only thing we can understand that's changed in ours is the spray. It was the best wintering we'd had in several years. The mite levels were really low. We had no tracheal mites showing up. We tested for nosema last fall, and most hives didn't have it. And it was a really low count. We treated anyhow to make sure that we kept the numbers down.
I think that's about the gist of what's going on. I've been making notes every day this has been going on, based on recommendations from our provincial apiarist.
If there are any questions, I'm willing to answer them.