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What’s the buzz?

N.L. Beekeeping Association seeking research collaborators

By Amy Jones

Yaffle.ca is Memorial’s online connecting tool.

One of its most significant jobs is to provide a way for people from outside Memorial to ask for research help. With hundreds of community-suggested opportunities to choose from, your next project is just a click away. Here’s one:

The opportunity

Newfoundland and Labrador is one of a few places on Earth still unaffected by many of the diseases and other problems affecting honey bee populations elsewhere.

The province has a small but growing group of beekeepers, who organized to form the Newfoundland and Labrador Beekeeping Association (NLBKA) in 2014.

According to the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists, as of February 2017 there were about 500 honey bee colonies in the province managed by approximately 50 beekeepers.

Many beekeepers have taken it on as a hobby craft, while half a dozen have a commercial focus selling honey, beeswax, pollen and other products, as well as offering pollination services. Despite climatic conditions, the NLBKA is optimistic that the number of beekeepers and colonies will continue expanding with the development of new technologies and methods.

Picking drones from a brood frame.
Picking drones from a brood frame.
Photo: Peter Armitage

The NLBKA has an internal research committee that has identified several research priorities concerning honey bees and wild pollinator species in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“We badly need research in a number of areas in order to advance our knowledge of our strains of bees, as well as to assist us with the practical and economic aspects of beekeeping,” said Peter Armitage, member of the NLBKA’s research committee.

“We would like to work with researchers at Memorial University to fill in knowledge gaps and help address our current apiculture challenges.”

Honey bee foraging in Purple Tansy.
Honey bee foraging in purple tansy.
Photo: Peter Armitage

The project

Mr. Armitage says that trying to decide which research priorities are the most important is extremely difficult, as many are highly inter-related.

For example, there is a general lack of knowledge regarding bees that inhabit both Labrador and the island. The diversity of native bee species needs to be determined, as well as an assessment of their distribution and abundance.

“We not only know very little about what native bee species we have here, we also know very little about their pathogens, pests and diseases.” – Peter Armitage

“We not only know very little about what native bee species we have here, we also know very little about their pathogens, pests and diseases,” he said. “We desperately need to know more about this to inform decision-making related to the importation of exotic bumble bee species and the risks of pathogen spillover.”

Beekeepers examining capped brood (pupae) on a frame.
Beekeepers examining capped brood (pupae) on a frame.
Photo: Peter Armitage

One aspect of Newfoundland and Labrador bees that needs more exploration is the role they play in the pollination of blueberry, cranberry, strawberry and other flowering crops. Another is whether or not pollination by managed bee colonies increases crop productivity or if native pollinators are capable of doing so.

Another possibility that needs investigating is whether or not income generated from the provision of pollination services could contribute significantly to the economic viability of commercial beekeeping operations when mixed with income from the sale of honey, pollen, beeswax, nucleus colonies and other bee products.

Honey bee foraging in Red Maple flowers.
Honey bee foraging in red maple flowers.
Photo: Peter Armitage

“These are just some of the questions we have, and we need to get cracking with research to address them,” Mr. Armitage said.

“We welcome any Memorial researchers interested in the study of bees to contact us.”

Find out more about various research opportunities with the Newfoundland and Labrador Beekeeping Association on the website, visit Mr. Armitage’s Yaffle profile.

Interested in learning more about this project? The Harris Centre’s co-ordinator of knowledge mobilization can also tell you more. Email Amy Jones or call her at 709-864-6115.

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