The Grand Challenge...
Honey bees are some of the world's most important pollinators. A significant proportion (perhaps up to one-third) of the crops we eat rely on insect pollination. In Canada alone, the economic harvest value attributed to honey bee pollination is estimated to be up to $5.5 billion per year (AAFC, 2020).
Bees provide our society with useful products such as honey, beeswax, propolis, and royal jelly. Honey has been valued as a food and medicine since ancient times, and in 2019, the average annual production of honey worldwide was ~1.85 million metric tons. Yet, global declines in wild and managed pollinators are well known.
North American beekeepers lose approximately one third of their bees every year — roughly three times the historical average. The Canadian wintering loss for 2019–2020 was 30.2%, with provincial losses ranging from 16.9% to 40.5% (CAPA, 2020).
Causes of pollinator declines are complex and include diminishing flower resources, habitat loss, climate change, increased disease incidence, and exposure to toxic chemicals such as pesticides. Persistence of such high colony losses may jeopardize biodiversity, the productivity of major agricultural industries (e.g., canola), and global food security (Government of Canada, 2014; US EPA, 2015).
Who We Are
BeeHIVE members have a multidisciplinary background. From professional beekeeping and honey production expertise, to research expertise in biology, environmental geochemistry, toxicology and public health, biodiversity conservation, bee genomics, and bee pathogens and parasites, the BeeHIVE research cluster is well-poised to tackle the complex issues that affect the health of wild and managed honey bees, their environments, and the communities who depend on them.
To improve the outlook for honeybees and native pollinators, which in turn improves food security for humans, we apply an interdisciplinary, integrated, and novel approach to address three synchronous goals:
- to determine and mitigate the causes for recent declines in wild and managed bee colonies;
- to demonstrate the utility of bees beyond that of pollinator and honey producer, namely bees as biomonitors; thereby
- to secure the role of bees in a world of evolving human communities, rapid urbanization and population growth, global economics and food adulteration, and climate change.
Healthy pollinators, healthy environments, healthy communities.