The governments of Canada and Ontario have teamed up on a $1.3-million investment to help the beleaguered beekeeping industry remain resilient and competitive.

The funding, delivered by the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership (Sustainable CAP), is introducing the Honey Bee Health Initiative to ensure thriving honey bee colonies, the Ontario government said in a statement.

Eligible activities also include equipment purchases or modifications that prevent the spread of disease and analysis work to support best management practices, the statement said.

Canadian beekeepers lost a record number of hives last year due to a fatal combination of unpredictable weather made worse by climate change, pests, pathogens and habitat loss.

In recent years, the losses averaged about 35 per cent. But bee die-offs reached a record 50 per cent last year. This marks a significant increase compared to 20 years ago, when the die-off toll was only 10 per cent.

The spike in bee population losses has raised serious concerns among beekeepers about the future of the industry, prompting them to urge the federal and provincial governments for more support.

Beekeepers fear an even bleaker future and say without robust support, the die-offs could lead to the loss of an essential part of Canada's agri-food sector.

“Honey bees and the producers who care for them play a vital role in the production and diversity of high-value agricultural crops in Ontario,” said Lawrence MacAulay, federal agriculture minister. “Through this initiative, beekeepers will be able to access tools specific to their unique needs so they can continue building successful and sustainable beekeeping operations.”

“Ontario beekeepers play an important role in honey production and maintaining healthy bee colonies, which, in turn, contribute to the pollination of Ontario crops,” said Lisa Thompson, Ontario’s minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs. “Our government is committed to working with our beekeepers to address sector challenges, explore new markets and ensure the sector remains competitive.”

Canadian beekeepers lost a record number of hives last year due to a fatal combination of unpredictable weather made worse by climate change, pests, pathogens and habitat loss. #HoneyBee #Beekeepers

The application window for Honey Bee Health Initiative funding is scheduled to open on Sept. 15. Eligible applicants stand to secure funding for up to 50 per cent of approved project costs. Beekeepers with fewer than 50 hives may receive up to $4,500 in support for approved projects, while those with over 50 hives, could access up to $25,000.

As part of the eligibility criteria, applicants will need to provide evidence of completing a pest management course focused on Ontario honey bees from a recognized educational institution.

Paul Kelly, research and apiary manager at the University of Guelph’s Honey Bee Research Centre, estimates the total value of honey bees to the Canadian economy is $70 billion a year. The number includes honey bee pollination benefits, honey production and the income of farmers who depend on the bees.

According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, in 2021, Ontario was home to 25 per cent of all beekeepers in Canada, about 13 per cent of the sector’s colonies and seven per cent of the honey production.

This story was produced in partnership with Journalists for Human Rights for the Afghan Journalists-in-Residence program funded by the Meta Journalism Project.

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I would love to see what beekeepers have to say about this funding, as I reached out to a friend who is a “non-commercial” beekeeper & this announcement moves funding away from beekeepers in her category & provides nominal funding for commercial beekeepers despite what the press release implies. Check out the Southern Ontario Beekeepers Facebook group. There is some good discussion, including numbers, going on in the group.