News & Updates

RDAR invests in research to support bee health and honey industry sustainability

March 3, 2022
Photo supplied by RDAR Member : Alberta Beekeepers Commission

RDAR is excited to invest in such crucial research that will improve industry sustainability, hive genetics and performance to reduce dependence on the importation of bees.”

March 3, 2022 – Human and animal health are interdependent and intrinsically linked to the health of the ecosystem we share. As pollinators, bees contribute to the health and vitality of many agricultural crop ecosystems that feed us all.

Dr. Olav Rueppell at the University of Alberta and his team were awarded $437,268 from RDAR, $120,000 of which comes from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) for honey bee research.

Dr. Rueppell and his team are leading studies that support a deeper understanding of bee health. This critical research directly contributes to the sustainability of the beekeeping and apicultural industry in Alberta by strengthening honey bees’ natural defences and resiliency.

“Honey bees are essential to Alberta’s agriculture industry – not just as important pollinators, but as a thriving sector all its own. Like every other ag sector, research is essential to helping it face issues and grow. This project will help our beekeepers determine what makes the best stocks, which will make the industry more resilient. It’s an exciting collaboration, and I look forward to seeing its results.”

Nate Horner, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development

This key research project will broadly help Alberta’s agriculture industry, with benefits extending outward from the honey production sector and reaching the canola sector through crop pollination services. Dr. Rueppell’s work will compare the predictive power of different honey bee genetic and phenotypic markers to contribute to a better understanding of how to design agricultural selection and improve honey bee breeding strategies.

“Dr. Rueppel’s research on honey bees aligns directly with bee industry needs and RDAR’s producer identified priorities that focus on sustainable, competitive and profitable solutions that will improve animal and crop health in Alberta. RDAR is excited to invest in such crucial research that will improve industry sustainability, hive genetics and performance to reduce dependence on the importation of bees.”

Clinton Dobson, RDAR Director of Research

Outcomes of this research will provide Alberta honey bee producers with tangible solutions that will drive positive results in the short and long term. In the short term, producers will benefit from access to top-performing colonies that will contribute to the strength and resilience of Alberta beekeeping operations. In the long term, research findings will be shared with honey bee producers as a practical means for adopting efficient and effective hive best management practices.

“The health of our honey bees and the apicultural industry needs to be sustained with multiple, integrative strategies. The goal of this research is to understand the health of different honey bee stocks in our local conditions. Given the large number of honey bee imports from different parts of the world, we hope that these findings will strengthen Alberta’s beekeeping industry and contribute to the sustainability of apiculture in general.”

Dr. Olav Rueppell, Professor of Honey Bee Biology and Health – University of Alberta

RDAR funding will support Dr. Rueppell’s work to:

  1.  Identify markers at the molecular, individual, and colony-level that can predict the survival and performance of honey bees in Alberta.
  2. Compare the performance of three commercially relevant honey bee stocks in three Alberta locations.
  3. Improve producer understanding of local causes of honey bee colony losses.

“The long-term sustainability and self sufficiency of the industry is dependent on finding strategies which improve honey bee health and identify those markers which are best suited to Alberta’s unique eco-climatic zones while maintaining honey production and pollinator performance.

We are pleased to support Dr. Rueppell’s project and the collaboration of bee researchers across Alberta and the Alberta Tech Team.”

Connie Phillips, Executive Director – Alberta Beekeepers Commission

Want to learn more about Dr. Rueppell’s buzz-worthy research? View the RDAR project details here: Assessing molecular individual and colony markers of local and important stocks to improve honey bee health in Alberta

Buzz-worthy Fast Facts about Bees and Agriculture:

  • The prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba produce 79% of Canadian honey, and numerous crops across the prairies are heavily dependent on bees for their pollination activity (Government of Canada).
  • Bee health is part of OneHealth – Bees are pollinators and contribute substantially to food security. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that of the 100 crop species that provide 90% of food worldwide, 71 are pollinated by bees.
  • Honey bees are vital for pollinating fruit, vegetables, and field crops, like canola, lupins, beans, sunflowers, and flax. Well-pollinated crops produce more fruit and honey bees can increase fruit production by 2-8 times (Honey Council of Canada).

About RDAR
RDAR’s mandate is to target strategic investments in producer-led, results-driven agriculture research to power Alberta agriculture’s competitiveness, profitability, productivity, and sustainability. RDAR is a not-for-profit organization funded by the Government of Alberta and the Government of Canada. rdar.ca  

About the Canadian Agricultural Partnership
The Canadian Agricultural Partnership is a five-year $3 billion investment by Canada’s federal, provincial, and territorial governments to strengthen and grow Canada’s agri-food and agri-products sectors. This commitment includes $2 billion for programs cost-shared by the federal and provincial/territorial governments, with the programs designed and delivered by provinces and territories.

RDAR Media Inquiries:
Janada Hawthorne
Communications Lead
Results Driven Agriculture Research

780-903-2734
janada.hawthorne@rdar.ca