The South Vancouver Island region is a unique mix of urban and semi-urban environments. The area is home to several small-scale beekeeping operations within a small land area. As a result, pollinator forage areas are often shared.  The Capital Region Beekeepers’ Association (CRBA) has noticed an increase in honeybee diseases like American Foulbrood likely because of the shared forage areas. Intending to support bee health, the group began an annual trip, starting in 2013, to the lower mainland to sterilize equipment for beekeepers in the area.

In 2023/24 CRBA received funding from Bee BC for their annual trip. The equipment sterilization trip has a range of participants from individual beekeepers and small-scale apiaries to sideliner beekeepers. The sterilization method in conjunction with integrated pest management methods has shown a reduction in overall disease presence and increased resilience in overwintering colonies.

“Maintaining honey bee health is a community effort. It requires respect and management of our bee stocks and their shared environment, exercising best practices, and maintaining good relationships with beekeeper resources in both government and industry,” said Alanna Morbin, CRBA Sterigencis Event Coordinator. “Our association has been appreciative of the support available to us through the BC Bee program, and the Sterigenics facility in Port Coquitlam BC which has provided us with this vital service since 2013.”

CRBA successfully transferred 299 packages of beekeeping equipment to Port Coquitlam for sterilization this year. While most of the equipment was from Capital Region beekeepers, the group was able to accept 32 packages from beekeepers in the Cowichan and Nanaimo Districts. The equipment sterilized was at risk of being contaminated with American Foulbrood, Deformed Wing Virus, and other pests and pathogens.

In preparation for their next sterilization trip, CRBA has created a guide that they plan to share with other Vancouver Island bee association that are interested in helping organize the event. CRBA also speaks at club meetings to raise awareness about the yearly event. The demand for equipment sterilization continues to grow so CRBA hopes that joining forces with other island associations will alleviate some of the challenges around organizing this event.

With this year’s event complete, the club’s members are now ready for the 2024 flight season. This event is vital to maintaining optimum hive hygiene and reducing the risk of spreading disease within the bee forage community.