Apr 4, 2013

Site locked down

To Whom It May Concern:

My work as Saanich South MLA and Opposition Critic for Agriculture ends when the Writ Drops on April 16 2013, one month before the BC provincial election on May 14. 

During the Writ period I will not be an MLA (but an incumbent candidate seeking re-election).

I am therefore locking down websites , including this one, that I created in my capacity as an elected representative and/or Opposition Critic.

Most of the contents of this (no-cost) blog-site will remain accessible on the internet as a matter of public record but I will not be accessing or updating this site.

My apologies for any inconvenience. 


Mar 29, 2013

Spring 2013: How are your bees?

Dear bee-keepers and bee-supporters,

Over the last week I've been touching base with bee-keepers across BC. I know it is a little early yet, but I want to hear from you if you are experiencing any significant die-off.

I am still the BC Agriculture Critic (until the BC parliament dissolves on April 16) and this will always be an important issue to me.

I will of course not share your personal experiences without your permission. So far I am hearing that this Spring is looking quite good for bee-keepers on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, certainly nothing like what we experienced in 09/10.

I would appreciate your input. Please email me at lana.popham.mla@leg.bc.ca

Best, Lana

Lana Popham, MLA Saanich South & Opposition Critic for Agriculture
250.479.4154 | www.saanichsouth.ca | www.islandbees.ca

PS. Here is an article from page A1 of today's New York Times that will be of interest: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/29/science/earth/soaring-bee-deaths-in-2012-sound-alarm-on-malady.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Apr 3, 2012

BC Bees?

Dear bee-keepers and bee-supporters,

Last week during the Budget Estimates for the Ministry of Agriculture, I turned the spotlight onto the serious challenges facing bee-keepers in British Columbia.

As a past farmer and lifetime local food supporter I know that we cannot have BC agriculture without pollinators.

You may be surprised to learn that in the glossy new "agri-food strategy" just released by the provincial government, bees and pollinators were completely left out!

Take a look at these videos. I'm looking for your feedback and current stories from BC bee-keepers in order to make this industry a priority in BC.


Lana Popham
Agriculture Critic, MLA Saanich South

Feb 28, 2011

Local Beekeepers are fighting to keep our precious island pollinators safe

Here is a letter I sent on Friday to BC Agriculture Minister Ben Stewart regarding the inadequate protection of island honey-bees.

February 25, 2011

Dear Minister Stewart,

I am writing to draw your attention to a matter requiring your action. As you are likely aware, the owner of Babe’s Honey, Mark Pitcher, is now facing several fraud-related criminal charges. I assume he is innocent until proven otherwise in a court of law. Having said that, it is important to revisit how your Ministry has handled the Vancouver Island bee file.

My understanding is that the policy to lift the quarantine on the importation of bees and of bee equipment on the island was based in large part on input from Mr. Pitcher.

In contrast, hundreds of Island beekeepers – including substantial honey-related business owners – were denied input in the decision-making process. They were and are presenting a consensus on what steps are necessary to safeguard our island pollinators and improve honey bee health on the island.

Experts, concerned individuals and myself, have been speaking out strongly about this situation since the quarantine was lifted. We have warned your ministry repeatedly of the danger of this course of action. Our input was ignored.

At this point, it is important to ensure the safety of hundreds of millions of bees recently brought onto Vancouver Island by Mr. Pitcher. I have questions regarding the health and maintenance of these hives. As the Official Opposition Critic for Agriculture, I am asking for answers.

I want to know what course of action you are recommending and what steps you are taking to ensure the situation improves.

This issue affects all of us on the island because if these bees become diseased and spread their disease, our already-decimated precious island pollinators could be further harmed.

As you know, pollination is a very important part of our food security and pollination is fundamental to our island agriculture industries.

I look forward to your earliest reply.


Lana Popham

MLA Saanich South
Official Opposition Critic for Agriculture

And check out this Times Colonist article for more details: Concern for Babe's Honey bees as company enters receivership.

Nov 16, 2010


Kudos to Greg Horne for making this documentary! Watch it and you'll know why island bee-keepers swarmed the BC Legislature this fall...and why it is so important that we protect our precious island pollinators.

I also want to acknowledge the resolution adopted at the recent BC Honey Producers' Association AGM:
The BC Honey Producers' Association [shall] send a letter to the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands stating that we have lost confidence with the Apiculture Program and are seeking change, with more consultation, to enhance communication and increase the sustainability of beekeeping in British Columbia.
Please take a moment to support my efforts to persuade the Ministry of Agriculture to address this serious situation: click here

Thank you,

Lana Popham, MLA Saanich South

Sep 7, 2010

Let's Swarm the Legislature!

The bees need your help!

Last year more than 90% of the honey-bees on the island died!

And what is worse, the provincial government's response has been to weaken the protections for our precious island bees.

Bee-keepers from across Vancouver Island ask you to join them for a rally:

Wednesday September 22nd at noon at the BC Legislature.

We are calling on the government to consult with island bee-keepers and strengthen the regulations.

This is about more than honey. Bees are critical pollinators, and without pollinators more than a third of our food plants will die.

We are asking everyone who supports local farming and food security to join us.

Hope to see you there!

RSVP via Facebook

Jul 29, 2010

Bees! Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.

Hundreds of people up and down Vancouver Island are speaking out about... bees!

I'm Lana Popham, the MLA for Saanich South. I've also farmed for years and am a strong advocate for local food security. As you know, bees are pollinators and without pollinators a third of our food plants can’t reproduce naturally.

There is a crisis right now on Vancouver Island: last year, 90% of the honey-bees on the island died. We aren't sure why, but the provincial government is making the situation worse by a recent change which allows people to import hives from the mainland. There had been a 22-year old quarantine in effect which protected us from the even worse situation (diseases and pests) facing bee-keepers off the island. But that has been lifted in error and we now need your help before the situation gets any worse.

Almost every single bee-keeper on the island agrees that the Agriculture Minister's actions are worsening the situation for honey-bees on the island. You can read many of their comments by clicking here.

Please help by taking a few minutes to write a letter to your Mayor and Council. This is, in part, an island issue and so we need our municipal leaders to take action. 

Believe me, every single letter has big impact. 

Thank you,


Quick Letter Writing Tips and Info
1. Find the mailing address for your Mayor. Click here for an up-to-date list of Mayors on Vancouver Island. (Note: the Mayor from Metchosin has already written an excellent letter.)
2. Address your letter to ‘Mayor and Council’.
3. Include a little personal information so they understand why this is important to you.
4. A very modest improvement would include a Motion asking the B.C. government to immediately halt the importation of used bee-keeping equipment and/or honeycomb.

If you want to be fancy, you can even take the time to c.c. the BC Minister of Agriculture, Steve Thomson. PO BOX 9120 STN PROV GOVT, Victoria, BC, V8W 9E2

Thank you! Every letter makes a big difference as very few people actually send them.


Jul 2, 2010

Thank you Metchosin!

The good people of the District of Metchosin have spoken out loudly in defense of our island bees.

Without bees and their pollinating powers, 2/3 of our local food production would disappear. They are critically important to local food security and the economic viability of many of our local farms.

And yet the provincial government is making decisions that are putting our island bees at serious risk.

Thanks to the Mayor and Council of the District of Metchosin for expressing this issues with so much clarity and force.

Jun 23, 2010

Honey producer, B.C. Ferries at odds over bee transport


B.C. Ferries and an Island commercial honey producer are blaming each other for the escape of honey bees from a transport truck that was travelling on the Spirit of British Columbia earlier this month.

Hundreds to thousands of bees flew out of net-covered hives, some carpeting the car deck while others buzzed through the air.

No one was stung or injured, but the June 1 incident raises concerns for the safety of crew or passengers who have life-threatening allergies to bee stings.
Mark Pitcher, owner of Babe’s Honey, said yesterday he’s not impressed with how B.C. Ferries handled the situation. So on Sunday, Pitcher brought a second trailer-load of bees to the Island, 400 hives containing 3.5 billion honeybees, this time on a Seaspan barge.

Pitcher said he met with B.C. Ferries staff prior to the voyage to ensure that the bees, the ferry passengers and crew would be safe. He wanted the truck loaded first and put up front, the ferry’s rear doors opened to allow air flow and the lights on the main car deck shut off, leaving only emergency lighting on.

“We’d written all the protocols. We’d talked to everybody all the way up to it and they didn’t do a single thing they were supposed to do, including all the directions of the provincial apiarist for the province of B.C.,” Pitcher said yesterday.

The ferry was at Active Pass before the beekeepers could find someone on the ferry to open the doors and dim the lights, said Pitcher. By this time, the warmth and bright lights of the car deck had woken the bees.
But the onus for securing the bees being transported in their hives falls on the owner of the hives, said Deborah Marshall, spokeswoman for B.C. Ferries.

“I don’t see how the heck this is supposed to be our fault — his bees are supposed to be contained,” said Marshall yesterday.

Bees can be contained in hives by blocking the holes through which they exit, but this was not done.

A 22-year moratorium that banned the importing of bees onto the Island was recently lifted and this was the first large shipment to leave Tsawwassen. While the importing of bees to the Island has been restricted, B.C. Ferries has had plenty of experience taking them off the Island, Marshall said.

“I don’t recall ever hearing a problem like this,” she said.

“We want to support the industry on Vancouver Island. We don’t want to cause them any hardship, but if it’s putting passengers and crew in a potentially dangerous situation we’re going to have to look at whether we continue to transport them or not.”

Pitcher estimates only 600 bees escaped the shipment and none, he said, posed a risk to crew or passengers.

“Nobody got stung and you wouldn’t get stung,” said Pitcher. “The only time you wear protective gear is when you’re collecting honey and riling up the hives.”

Island farmers need honey bees to pollinate their crops, said Pitcher.
“There aren’t enough bees for the farmers right now. We’ve got to get bees into the crops to get them pollinated.”


May 27, 2010

Today in the Legislature

Dear Island Bee Keepers and everyone concerned about our precious pollinators,

Today in the Legislature I made a two minute statement about the `Day of the Honeybee`.

As you know, the government recently ended a twenty-two year old quarantine on importing bees from the mainland, and did so without consulting local bee-keeping communities and associations.

During Question Period, I raised the issue directly with the Minister responsible, asking him to pull back from this short-sighted decision and provide the protections our island honey bees desperately need.

You can watch both videos below, transcripts follow.

"Day of the Honey Bee" - Two-Minute Statement in the Legislature

Honey Bees in Question Period, May 27, 2010


L. Popham: May 29 has been proclaimed the Day of the Honeybee in British Columbia. Honeybees are a big part of our pollinator population and play a critical role in the production of many B.C. crops. In fact, much of B.C.'s agricultural production is dependent on honeybee pollination. Without them, our food systems will fail.

Our proclamation was signed recently, and within our proclamation, the virtues of B.C. bees as well as the threats they face were brought to light:

"Whereas the honeybee has, through its role as pollinator, been an important part of agricultural efforts since ancient times; and whereas the honeybee plays an essential role in the success of agricultural enterprises in British Columbia; and whereas the honeybee has been under serious threat due to disease and environmental conditions that ultimately threaten the future of agriculture in our province; and whereas the government of British Columbia has worked with the agriculture industry to improve production and the honeybee has been under serious threat due to disease and environmental conditions that ultimately threaten the future of agriculture in our province. Whereas the government of British Columbia has worked with the agriculture industry to improve production and stabilize the industry. Whereas it is in the interest of furthering that goal to raise awareness of the role of the honeybee and the plight it faces."

In early May, a 22-year-old policy restricting the importation of bees to Vancouver Island was lifted. This significant decision is of grave concern to the Vancouver Island bee-keeping sector. Bee keepers are especially concerned because last winter on Vancouver Island almost 90 percent of honeybees died, largely because of the varroa mite which was introduced to island hives when an individual contravened our island quarantine.

I am wondering, given recent decisions, if the day of the honeybee will become a day of memorial for honeybees on Vancouver Island in our near future.

L. Popham: Beekeepers on Vancouver Island are reeling from a recent decision to change the policy around the import of bees to Vancouver Island from the mainland — a policy that has been in place for 22 years. This was done without consultation, and the results may be devastating to our bee industry. The test results, which were the basis for the government to lift the quarantine, are not being made public.

Will the Minister of Agriculture commit today to listen to all island beekeepers and ensure that there will be no honeycomb and no used equipment brought onto the Island from the Lower Mainland?

Hon. S. Thomson: The member opposite is aware that we've equalized the restriction for imported bees onto Vancouver Island with federal standards. Vancouver Island beekeepers were able to import bees from Australia and from Chile before. We've equalized those standards with federal standards so that they can import bees from the Lower Mainland, providing those opportunities for the Vancouver Island bee producers.

I'm fully aware of the concerns of Vancouver Island. The member opposite knows that I've met with the presidents of the associations. For bees to come onto Vancouver Island, they require inspection, and they require a permit. We've committed to continue to work with the associations to make sure the inspection protocols are in place so that we can protect the health of the Vancouver Island bee population.

Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.

L. Popham: I understand that the minister has met with the local Island bee clubs, and so have I. It's not the bees that are a problem and that they're worried about. They're worried about the honeycomb and the used equipment. The minister has been claiming that there is science to back up the decision that was made. If he believes this is true, then there should be nothing to hide. Will he commit today to release the provincial test results to the Island beekeepers?

Hon. S. Thomson: I have met with the presidents of the associations, and I've committed to continue to meet with them. As I said, it requires inspection. It requires permit for bees to come on to Vancouver Island. We're going to continue to work with the associations around the inspection protocols to make sure that we protect the health of the Vancouver Island bee population.

Coming from the agriculture industry, I understand the importance of the bee industry to both the agriculture industry and to value-added production for small-scale farms on Vancouver Island and in British Columbia. We'll continue to work with the association to make sure that those inspection protocols and those permits are in place to protect the health of the Vancouver Island bee population.


Why is the quarantine important?

1. There are diseases and pests on the Mainland that don’t exist here yet.

2. The quarantine has slowed the spread of diseases. Varroa arrived here years after it decimated the Mainland. And then only because someone knowingly brought bees in illegally.

3. We’ve just come through the worst winter of losses that the lower Island has seen — do we really need an influx of new problems just now?

4. The losses were up to 90% — what if we have something new on the island that we are about to export now?

5. Local stock is adapted to local conditions. Outside bees aren’t.

6. Surely there was plenty of time for consultations… but were you involved? No? Me neither. Neither were the Island clubs. Neither was the BCHPA.

We can overturn this decision. We need to.

A message from the Capital Region Beekeepers Association

Report from Island Bee-Keeping Community

By Brian Scullion, South Vancouver Island. Aug, 2010

Hello beekeepers and friends. The past six months have been a real challenge for many Island beekeepers. With the severe losses this past winter and the change in the policy on Movement of Bees legislation, we struggle to find any logic to support the policy change to allow bees on comb onto the Islands. We were promised consultations prior to any change in policy, but there was zero communication with Island beekeepers. We were informed via phone conference on April 22 that the policy change would take effect on May 1, 2010, and that the condition to move bees to the Islands would have the same protocols as Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has for overseas imports. Fine, we said, CFIA says no bees on comb. Next thing you know, on May 10 the policy changes again and there’s no mention of the CFIA import conditions. A coalition of Island beekeepers met with the Ministry so we could put our concerns on the table. We reiterated the facts concerning our losses on the Islands this past winter, but the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Lands (BCMAL) did not seem concerned about the contributing causes.

At this meeting we brought examples and demonstrated the most common ways to move honeybees: on comb and in a package. Minister Thompson and Deputy Minister Kislock’s lack of understanding of how bees are moved, or, for that matter, of the beekeeping industry, dismayed us. We explained to the Minister that, in this day of risk and hazard assessments, the movement of bees on comb to the Islands far outweighs any economic benefit. We explained that there is a greater risk of pests, pathogens and disease on comb than in a package of bees. We were amazed when the Minister said we were wrong, there were no greater risk, and the head Apiculturist at the meeting agreed with the Minister. It took a pointed letter from a Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturalists (CAPA) member to have the Ministry understand this fact: Bees on comb poses a greater risk. Period.

We were also told that disease profiles are the same province- wide. What is wrong with that picture? Disease profiles differ greatly! Look at how information is gathered to build a disease profile: If I call for an inspection because I suspect a problem, the inspector will document what was found. But that alone doesn’t create a profile, does it? What about the beekeeper that did not require an inspection, or call for one: is he excluded from the profile? I would say so. Correct me if I am wrong, but a profile should involve an inspector calling me for a sample saying, “We require a sample of your bees as we are conducting assays and a variety of tests province-wide to give a real profile of bee health in British Columbia.” That’s a no-brainer.

As most of you must have read in the newspapers, the first move of bees on comb to the island was a sorry disaster, as the entrances to the colonies were left open allowing the bees to free fly. When the truck came to a stop on the deck of the boat, thousands of bees took flight, and It was not until the ferry made it to active pass before the deck lights were turned down and the doors opened to allow cool air to rush in. The bee carpeted car deck was closed to the public for about a half an hour, and in that time honey bees were washed into the ocean with fire hoses. We are very sad for this mismanaged move and for the unnecessary loss of thousands of honeybees.

I urge all beekeepers, the executive of the BCHPA, CAPA, Canadian Honey Council (CHC) and all bee inspectors Canada-wide to speak out on this policy change. Maybe we have it all wrong! If there are people in favour of this change in policy: Educate me; tell me we have it wrong and why. Tell me how this policy change will be beneficial to all beekeepers. I know of only one individual on the Island in favour of this change. Other than that — silence!

What we have heard, loud and clear, from Island beekeepers and Island BCHPA members, is support for the Coalition to continue pressure on the BCMAL to reverse this policy change and to preserve the health of the Vancouver Island bee district.