Project

Honey bees are a crucial part of Canadian agriculture, contributing at least $4.6 billion/y: they
produce between eighty and ninety thousand tonnes of honey each year and their pollination
activities directly support the production of many fruits, nuts and vegetable crops. But the health of
honey bees has been declining over the past decade, with Canadian beekeepers losing more than
a quarter of their colonies each winter since 2006-07. We often replace these colonies by
purchasing bees and queens from offshore but we cannot rely on these sources because of the
risk of importing new diseases or invasive strains of honey bees (such as the Africanized ‘killer’
bee). The high colony losses, coupled with the possible loss of access to replacement sources,
pose a serious threat to the productivity of major Canadian agri-food industries and jeopardize our
food security. Left unchecked, the production and accessibility of fruits, nuts and vegetables will
decline. Our team of researchers will improve the health of Canadian honey bees by developing
new genomic and proteomic tools that will enable beekeepers to rapidly and cost-effectively breed
healthy, disease-resistant, productive bee colonies that are better able to survive our harsh
Canadian winters. The availability of high-quality, locally bred honey bees should reduce Canada’s
dependence on imported queens. In parallel, we will increase the safety of bee importations by
developing an accurate and cost effective assay to detect bees with Africanized genetics. Our
research team will work with a large number of beekeepers, industry technology-transfer teams,
diagnostic labs and government regulators to ensure that our ‘omic tools are implemented and
accessible to the beekeeping industry by the end of the project. Our innovative efforts will help
guard the safety and sustainability of the beekeeping industry, ensuring our food security and
supporting more than $4 billion in value to the Canadian economy.

Our project is funded in part through Large-Scale Applied Research Project (LSARP) from Genome Canada. Other funding partners include Genome British Colombia, Genome Alberta, Genome Quebec, the University of British Columbia, York University, the BC Ministry of Agriculture, and the BC Honey Producers Association.

beeomics