The province is limiting the import of Ontario bees that may live in, or have had contact with, quarantined zones infested with small hive beetles.

The Department of Agriculture cancelled some import permits in May when it was discovered quarantines for this honey-destroying pest weren't always working.

Imports were being brought in to help Island beekeepers pollinate this years blueberry crops. 

Several N.B. colonies infested

"What the association had lobbied for previously, was that if bees were going to come in they would come in from small hive beetle-free areas," said Dave MacNearney, chair of the P.E.I. Beekeepers Association.

'The best strategy for the blueberry industry is to have a vibrant local beekeeping community so they don't have to rely on imports.' — Dave MacNearney

The request for beetle-free bees follows growing concerns of small hive beetle infestations in Ontario that have been troublesome for several years. 

In June of this year, several colonies in New Brunswick were quarantined after the small, pinhead-sized pests made their way to the Maritimes, ruining honey crops in the Acadian Peninsula.

Last year, the province allowed imported bees only from the non-quarantined area, MacNearney said.

small-hive-beetle

The small hive beetle crawls its way into the colony and ruins honey, though it reportedly doesn't harm the bees themselves.

It tried the same approach this year, but McNearney said they realized some small hive beetles may have escaped the quarantine.

The association alerted the province, which cancelled some permits in May, but did allow some imports from certain beetle-free areas.

Ideally, MacNearney said, P.E.I. would have its own, self-sustaining bee population.

"The best strategy for the blueberry industry is to have a vibrant local beekeeping community so they don't have to rely on imports," he said. 

With files from Laura Chapin