Beekeeping is a big industry and interest in Canada. In 2019, Canada produced 80.4 million pounds of honey, and in 2017 pollination services in Canada were estimated to contribute between 4.0 and 5.5 billion dollars to the nation’s economy.1 Canada is a major producer of canola and blueberries, two crops that benefit greatly from pollination services. Unfortunately, beekeepers in Canada face similar challenges to those in the U.S. making research a necessity for improving honey bee health, creating and optimizing tools for beekeepers. In 2020, the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists (CAPA) reported 30.2% colony losses over winter, nationally, with some provinces losing as many as 40.7% of their colonies.2
Sponsored by Costco Canada, in December 2020 Project Apis m. issued a call for proposals to support honeybee health and the food supply chain in Canada. The call was answered! Submitted proposals numbered in the double digits and were narrowed down through careful consideration by Project Apis m.’s Science Advisory Committee, which included two guestCanadian researchers, Heather Higo, and Dr. Marta Guarna, who volunteered their time to review the Canadian proposals.
The final selections were made at the beginning of June 2021. Three projects were chosen, with funding awards of 100,000 CAD, and 199,404 US sponsored by Costco Canada and Costco US respectively. The projects address the most immediate concerns for honey bee health with a focus on beekeeper tools and services:
Dr. Renata Borba, who leads the Alberta Beekeepers Tech Transfer team, was awarded 100,000 CAD over two years for her proposal, “Promoting Alberta’s beekeeping industry sustainable growth through the expansion of the Tech Transfer Program.” This project will take place primarily in Alberta, a major honey producing and pollination hub for Canada, and will increase the services available for beekeepers such as disease surveillance, training, and outreach.
Dr. Stephen Pernal, with Canada Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and Co-PI, Dr. Erika Plettner of Simon Fraser University, were awarded 166,170 USD over two years for their project, “Field Trials of a New Acaricidal Compound Against Varroa destructor in Honey Bee Colonies.” Beekeepers need new options for mite control now more than ever. Varroa mite infestation, and the associated diseases, drive colony loss year after year, and resistance to existing miticides is a looming threat. This project will help advance a new treatment towards commercial availability.
Dr. Albert Robertson, of Meadow Ridge Enterprises Ltd, along with cooperators: Patricia Wolf-Viega, of the National Bee Diagnostics Center, and Dr. Declan Schroeder, of the University of Minnesota, were awarded 33,234 USD, for their project, “Increasing Honey Bee Colony Survival Through Combined Miticide Treatments and Use of Varroa Tolerant Strains.” This project, while working with a Varroa tolerant strain of bees, seeks to identify mite treatments that result in lower levels of the bee viruses that are vectored by Varroa and are major contributors to colony loss.
In addition to new research, Project Apis m. is excited to announce that Dr. Marta Guarna will join the Project Apis m. team as a new Science Advisory Committee member. Dr. Guarna is a Research Scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and an Adjunct Professor at the University of British Columbia. She brings a rich background to her work on bees, both in the lab and the field. Dr. Guarna is a member of American Association of Professional Apiculturists, the Entomology Society of America, the BeeHIVE Research Cluster, which takes a multi-disciplinary approach to tackle complex honey bee issues, COLOSS, and the BeeBiome Consortium. Dr. Guarna also serves as chairperson of the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists’ Research Committee, and the Canadian Bee Research Fund, and currently her research focus is on queen health, bee pathogens, and pollination.
Dr. Guarna and Project Apis m. have worked together before, with projects funded on queen health and sperm viability, as well as bee health while pollinating highbush blueberries. Dr. Guarna will bring valuable knowledge about the Canadian beekeeping industry and its challenges to Project Apis m.
Project Apis m.’s executive director, Danielle Downey, says, “Although the Canadian and US beekeeping industries are very different, the losses- and stakes- are high in both places. With funding from Costco Canada, and adding perspectives like Dr. Guarna brings, PAm’s expanding support for Canadian research projects will address key challenges both industries face. As an alumni of a Canadian research lab, I am also excited to work more with Canadian colleagues.”
Project Apis m. looks forward to increasing its impact in Canada and seeking solutions for beekeepers on both sides of the border. Support through research for beekeepers in North America will help secure the population of healthy honey bees needed to provide crucial pollination services and honey production. We thank Costco Canada for this funding and the Canadian Honey Council for their cooperation. To stay up to date on these projects and other PAm-funded research be sure to visit our research page!
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