GUELPH – Funding from the federal and provincial governments is helping local beekeepers improve bee health and increase sales.
Since September, more than $221,000 has been committed to support 135 projects in Ontario. With contributions from businesses themselves, total spending in the beekeeping sector is $602,000.
Funding has been provided through a targeted application intake under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership. Eligible applications are being received and assessed on a continuous basis, while funding is available.
Colette Mesher of Guelph operates Rebel Honey currently with 17 hives, both in the city and Wellington County. She offers education sessions to people who want to take up backyard beekeeping.
She got a $1,200 grant to pay part of the cost of equipment such as a freezer and a microscope, and is hoping for an additional grant.
She needs to replace some of the removable frames that hold the wax brood comb, which over time can become dirty and infested with viruses that threaten bees.
Like all beekeepers, she is concerned about varroa mites, which can kill off bees if hives are not treated.
She said it’s important to keep bees as heavy and strong as possible to help them survive unpredictable winter weather.
“You cross your fingers and hope for the best,” she said.
Some projects supported through this funding include equipment to help managed honeybees survive the winter, detection and management of pests such as varroa mites, technology to enhance production, equipment to manage small hive beetle and market research to help increase sales.
Pia Marquardt of Guelph, who operates Denbigh Farms, is a small honey producer with 36 hives in Wellington County and at a cottage in Denbigh, Ontario.
She also got a grant to help pay for a freezer, used to eliminate the eggs of wax moths in the comb after the honey has been extracted. In addition, she received funding to improve the company’s profile on social media.
The program to support beekeepers is delivered by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA).
The health of honey bees is complex and influenced by several factors, including diseases, pests, genetics, environmental stressors and extreme weather.
In addition to producing honey, Ontario-managed honey bees pollinate a wide range of crops, including apples, apricots, asparagus, blueberries, squash and canola, both within Ontario and in other provinces.
Managed honeybees pollinate 80 per cent of all agricultural crops requiring insect pollination. They account for $395 million in pollination services to Ontario farmers and contribute $30 million a year in honey sales.
Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal minister of agriculture and agri-food, said “Many of our agricultural crops depend on the health and productivity of our pollinators, and this regional approach to strengthening Ontario’s honeybee populations plays a vital role in allowing our high-value crops to succeed.”
Ernie Hardeman, Ontario minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, said “Honey bees play an essential role in Ontario’s agricultural sector and in maintaining healthy ecosystems. That’s why it’s so important to support and sustain the health of our honeybees.
“This investment has helped over 135 beekeepers so far to equip themselves with better tools to prevent diseases, improve winter survival, adopt best management practices and grow their businesses.”
Since June 2018, both governments have committed cost-share support to approximately 2,500 projects through the partnership to help eligible Ontario farmers, processors, businesses and sector organizations innovate and grow.