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Latest government funding to benefit bee health in B.C.

Each project is eligible to receive up to $5,000 to fund projects enhancing bee health
Toni Burnham, president of DC Beekeepers Alliance, checks on the health of a honey bee colony where DC Water keeps four beehives on the rooftop of one of its buildings in Washington. (Jahi Chikwendiu/Special to The Star)

There is a buzz in the air as a new round of Bee BC funding opens soon to support more community projects aimed at protecting the health and habitat of bees.

“Bees play a role in the everyday life of British Columbians and a vital role in our agricultural industry,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries.

“Farmers rely on bees to pollinate their crops and consumers rely on farmers to put fresh produce on their plates, so the work B.C. beekeepers do to keep our bee populations healthy is important to all citizens. By supporting these projects, we are helping future generations of bees and ensuring food security in B.C.”

Beekeepers, beekeeping associations and regional and community-based organizations can apply for funding starting Monday, Jan. 11.

Each project is eligible to receive up to $5,000 to fund projects enhancing bee health throughout the province.

Projects can range from providing education in communities to planting bee-specific forage to using innovation and technology to help protect and ensure bee health in B.C.

The last round of projects included:

* educational programs for schools in the Kootenays and surrounding areas to teach the life cycle of the honeybee, the importance of pollination and the importance of bees and other pollinators on the larger ecosystem;

* testing the effectiveness of a seaweed extract supplement to help increase hive size and reduce disease levels among blueberry pollinator bees on the south coast; and

* mass planting nectar trees and other perennial bee flowers to help increase local nectar forage during the summer on the Gulf Islands.

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Aldergrove beekeeper and owner of Honey Bee Haven Bryn Jones said compared to the previous Liberal government, there is much more in the way of help and resources being given in the province.

“Something that would help would be a better way of informing the beekeeping community of results of these projects,” Jones explained. “We want to know what the best practises are to help the bees or know if an experiment had a negative result so we know what to avoid.”

A new bee-health website has also been launched as an online resource, featuring best practices and lessons learned from completed projects under the Bee BC program

The Bee BC program provides funding to smaller-scale, community-based projects that support the health of bees in the province.

Funding provides support to research, explore, field test and share information about best management practices associated with bee health.

Jones added that it is a tough time right now for beekeepers, noting a battle with a particular type of troublesome mite and deaths from cold weather have hurt farms.

“Ten years ago you would lose about 10 per cent of your colony because of cold weather and now it’s closer to 20 to 25 per cent,” Jones explained. “For me, it’s closer to 50 per cent and it’s hard to make a survivable colony having to start form scratch every year.”

Heather Higo, a Langley bee researcher, said Varroa mites have caused significant problems for colonies, explaining that it is difficult to deal with the tiny parasite on an already small insect.

“We are fortunate to have the UBC research lab in this province and Langley has a vibrant bee keeping community. The provincial health grants have gone too grassroots initiatives that have enhanced bee health and a lot of projects have benefited the,” Higo explained.

Despite the difficult time for the industry, Higo remains positive while Jones said he is appreciate of any help given by the government.

“I’m concerned, but I have to have hope because there is a lot of research going on to help us have a better understanding,” Higo said. “It is amazing that the government is giving us funding.”

The program is administered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries.


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