Honey Bee Research in Canada


List of research projects currently conducted by members of the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists across Canada
Bee Health and Pest Management

Next generation integrated pest management for beekeeping (2011-2014)

Researchers: Leonard Foster (University of British Colombia (UBC)), Stephen Pernal (Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada (AAFC)), Rob Currie (Univ. of Manitoba), Katherine Baylis (Univ. of Illinois), Eric Jan (UBC), Ashebar Sewalem (AAFC), Marta Guarna (UBC), A. Melathopoulos (Dalhousie Univ.), Shelley Hoover (Alberta Agriculture and Forestry), Heather Higo (Langley, BC), Elizabeth Huxter (Grand Forks, BC), M. Bixby (UBC)

Objectives: 1) To demonstrate the utility of using proteomic-based marker-assisted selection (MAS) to increase pathogen and mite-resistance in bee stocks, 2) To evaluate new RNAi reagents for controlling bee pathogens and parasites, and 3) To develop an economic model of current beekeeping management and production practices against which to evaluate the impacts of ‘omic-based disease and pest management technologies.


Honey bee health sustainability: Developing alternative tools for an IPM for varroa and nosema (2014-2018)

Researchers: Medhat Nasr (Alberta Agriculture and Forestry), Andrew Keddie (University of Alberta)

Objectives: 1) Testing alternative synthetic acaricides for Varroa control, 2) Evaluate best management systems and treatments for Nosema treatment, and 3) Develop Varroa and virus best management systems for Alberta beekeepers.


Honey bee health: Management of varroa mites and viruses (2014-2017)

Researchers: Graham Parsons (Saskatchewan Tech Adaptation Team), Medhat Nasr (Alberta Agriculture and Forestry), Rob Currie (Univ. of Manitoba), Stephen Martin (Univ. of Salford – UK)

Objectives: 1) Testing of new synthetic acaricides, 2) Testing of the DWV strain differences in colonies differently infected and treated for Varroa, 3) Varroa and virus levels in relation to different timing of Varroa treatment, and 4) Replacement of colonies with nucleus colonies and their performance differences due to size, season and type of varroa treatment.


Honey Bee Health Surveillance in Canada (2014-2018)

Researchers: S Pernal (Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada), and C Castillo (Grande Prairie Regional College)

Objectives: 1) Conduct a national survey to determine the incidence and distribution of the endemic pests, pathogens and parasites affecting honey bee stock, and 2) Provide surveillance for exotic organisms that constitute potential threats to the beekeeping industry.


Health of Bee Pollinators in Canadian Agriculture (2014-2018)

Researchers: S. Pernal (Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada (AAFC)), S Cardinal and S Javorek (AAFC), R Currie (Univ. of Manitoba), S Hoover (Alberta Agriculture and Forestry)

Objectives: 1) Determine which of the multiple stressors identified as impacting bee health are the key determinants of honey bee survival in Canada, 2) Determine levels of agricultural pesticides associated with pollen collected by managed and native bee species, 3) Examine factors affecting honey bee viral transfer on comb and develop mitigation techniques, 4) Determine the interactive effects of landscape pattern, pesticide use, pathogen and gut microbiota on native bee abundance and species diversity in agricultural landscapes, 5) Benchmark the status of native bees in key agricultural systems in Canada, 6) Determine spill-over and phylogenetic associations of pathogens among honey bees and native bee species.


Development of designed drugs for bee viruses’ treatment

Researchers: Medhat Nasr (Alberta Agriculture and Forestry), Michael James (Univ. of Alberta)

Objectives: 1) Develop effective RNAi based designed novel treatments for bee viruses, 2) Determine best system for integration of RNAi to field pest management systems, and 3) Evaluate field management recommendations for the use of NRAi.


Pre/probiotics to manage and prevent bee diseases

Researchers: Shelley Hoover (Alberta Agriculture and Forestry), Danica Baines (Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada)

Objectives: 1) Develop cell lines of honey and leafcutter bees, 2) Challenge cells / pupae with pathogens, and 3) Evaluate pre/probiotics to enhance bee health.


Developing biosecurity field management practices for bee viral and nosema diseases in Alberta

Researchers: Medhat Nasr (Alberta Agriculture and Forestry), Ernesto Guzman (University of Guelph)

Objectives: 1) Identification and prevalence of bee viruses in commercial operations relevant to Varroa, 2) Assessment of the relative importance of sources and risk factors of infection, and 3) Development of a biosecurity outreach program to deliver research findings to beekeepers.


Bee Probio: Bee Probio: Improving honey bee health with probiotics / Stratégie durable optimisant la santé des abeilles mellifères (2014-2016)

Researchers: Pierre Giovenazzo (Centre de recherche en sciences animales de Deschambault) and Nicolas Derome (Laval University), Stephen Pernal (Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada)

Objective: To test efficiency of probiotic nutritional supplements on honey bee resistance to various pathogens.


Ozone disinfection of honey bee hive equipment

Researchers: Les Eccles (Ontario Bee Tech Transfer Program) and Parker-Bee Apiaries

Objectives: 1) Testing the application of Ozone on dead-outs to see if the level of pesticides and nosema are decreased, and 2) To determine if bees introduced into disinfected equipment are productive.


The Small Hive Beetle (Aethina tumida Murray, Coleoptera : Nitidulidae) : surveillance and control (2012- 2015)

Researcher: Pierre Giovenazzo (Centre de recherche en sciences animales de Deschambault)

Objectives: 1) To study propagation of the small hive beetle populations in southern Québec, and 2) To evaluate if quarantine and eradication are effective procedures to control the small hive beetle.


Developing a diagnostic assay for Africanized honey bees (AHB) and establishing a baseline dataset on the genetics of Canadian Honey Bees (2013-2014)

Researchers: Amro Zayed, PhD (York University), Brock Harpur (York Univ.)

Objectives: 1) Provide a proof-of-concept dataset showing that AHBs can be readily distinguished from European bees and managed bees in Canada using a small number of DNA markers, 2) Conduct a large-scale study of the genetics of Canadian bee stocks by genotyping 1,000 workers from across Canada at 96 DNA markers that can accurately identify European and African ancestry to provide the baseline genetics of Canadian honey bees, and 3) Develop a cost-effective and accurate diagnostic assay for AHBs.


Maintaining healthy honey bees: Addressing Saskatchewan’s winter and pest challenges (2012-2014)

Researcher: Graham Parsons (Saskatchewan Tech Adaptation Team)

Objective: 1) Evaluate the importance of timing and acaricide treatment type on the health, pest control and overwintering ability of honey bees.
Bee Pollination

Maximizing the value of bee pollination services delivered to canola in Alberta (2014-2017)

Researchers: Shelley Hoover (Alberta Agriculture and Forestry), S Pernal (Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada) and R Carter (University of Calgary)

Objectives: 1) Examining the relationship between yield and bee abundance in seed and commodity canola, and 2) Determination of relative contributions of wind versus insect pollinators in commodity canola, 3) Evaluation of honey and leafcutter bee health in canola pollination versus alfalfa seed / honey production, and 4) Determination of differences between managing bees in singles versus doubles in pollination fields.


Optimum nourishment of bee colonies with sugar during cranberry pollination to maximize crop pollination (2014-2015)

Researcher: Georges Martin (Centre de recherche en sciences animales de Deschambault)

Objective: 1) Estimate the optimum sugar quantity needed to favour nourishment to improve crop pollination and yield; 2) Help beekeepers to negotiate best rental cost for hives.

Basic Biology and Genetics

Genomic studies of complex behaviour: honey bee genes, behaviour, and adaptation (2010-2015)

Researchers: Amro Zayed, Brock Harpur, Nadia Tsvetkov, Daria Molodtsova, Alivia Dey (York University)

Objectives: 1) To determine how genetic variation affects physiology and brain gene expression to regulate behavior, 2) To find changes in worker behavior affecting colony fitness, and 3) To discover how genes controlling behavior evolve.


Honey bee stock evaluation, reproduction and genetic selection (2010-2014)

Researcher: Pierre Giovenazzo (Centre de recherche en sciences animales de Deschambault)

Objectives: 1) To scientifically evaluate and compare zootechnical performances of selected honey bee stock (Buckfast, VSH and Québec local); 2) To develop a breeding program aiming for a constant amelioration of the zootechnical performances of honey bee stock available in Québec via its Queen breeders. Inbreeding and character concentration will be insured by isolated reproduction and artificial insemination; and 3) To establish a provincial redistribution and an in situ evaluation of the selected honey bee stock with the collaboration of the CRSAD, the Quebec Queen breeders and the Québec Apiculturists.


Optimizing drone selection and production / Optimisation de la sélection et de la production des faux-bourdons (2012-2014)

Researchers: Pierre Giovenazzo and Andrée Rousseau (Centre de recherche en sciences animales de Deschambault)

Objectives: 1) Measure the impact of various environmental factors on drone fertility.


PerformNuc : Reinforcement of competitiveness and self-sufficiency of beekeeping industry by nuclei production with improved genetic (2014-2017)

Researcher: Pierre Giovenazzo (Centre de recherche en sciences animales de Deschambault)

Objectives: 1) Inventory nuclei production methods used by beekeepers and compare them; 2) Realize two experimental protocols aiming to improving nuclei (force, fabrication date, etc.); 3) Increase the hives number in Quebec; 4) Strengthen expertise in beekeeping technology.


Saskatchewan Honey Bee Queen Quality: A Survey of Mating Success and Vitality (2012-2014)

Researchers: Graham Parsons (Saskatchewan Technology Adaptation Team)

Objectives: 1) Assess the mating success and viability of the mating of queens by surveying Saskatchewan and imported queens, 2) Test the collected queens with their attendant workers for tracheal mites (Acarapis woodii) and Nosema spp. (N. apis and N. ceranae), known parasites of honey bees, and 3) Provide information on the colonies where the queens are collected, as well as information on queens as a source of disease transmission.

Bees and the Environment including Neonicotinoids

The effects of sub lethal neonicotinoid exposure on brain state and behaviour of honey bee workers (2014-2016)

Researchers: Amro Zayed, PhD and Nadia Tsvetkov (York University), Valerie Fournier, PhD and Olivier Samson-Robert (Laval University)

Objectives: 1) Study how neonicotinoids alter the brain state of worker bees, 2) Study how neonicotinoids affect social immunity in honey bees, 3) Study how neonicotinoids affect spatial memory of honey bee workers, and 4) Quantify levels of neonicotinoids in bee colonies near and far away from corn fields overtime during the season.


Monitoring of honey bee and bumble bee colonies during corn planting in Quebec (2012-2014)

Researchers: Valerie Fournier and Olivier Samson-Robert (Laval University), Geneviève Labrie (CÉROM), Madeleine Chagnon (Université du Québec à Montréal)

Objectives: 1) Study surface water as a potential source of neonicotinoid exposure for honeybees, and wild bees, 2) Determine concentrations of clothianidin and/or thiamethoxam found in all samples collected from exposed sites, and 3) Analyze with Real Time qPCR to determine the expression level of a biological marker (AChE).


Effects of miticides and agricultural pesticides on the mite Varroa destructor, and on the health and behaviour of honey bees (2013-2014)

Researchers: Ernesto Guzman, Hanan Gashout, Hassan Tarek, Paul G. Kelly (University of Guelph)

Objectives: 1) Study the effects of synthetic and natural miticides used by beekeepers to control varroa mites as well as agricultural pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids, on honey bees including toxicity, longevity, immune responses and behaviours, and 2) Test the hypothesis that these compounds are harmful to the bees and affect their health and behaviour, contributing to the depopulation of colonies.


Environmental contamination of honey bee colonies and residues in hive products (2013-2016)

Researchers: S Pernal (Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada (AAFC)), T Thompson, J van den Heever, and N Best (Alberta Agriculture and Forestry), Greg Appleyard (Canadian Food Inspection Agency)

Objectives: 1) Develop and validate LC-MS/MS techniques for quantifying fumagillin residues in honey, 2) Employ LC-MS/MS techniques for determining incurred residues of fumagillin and degradation products in honey, 3) Determine how environmental storage conditions affect the viability and infectivity of N. ceranae spores, 4) Evaluate environmental contamination of hive products with pesticides.


Interaction of clothianidin with Varroa destructor and deformed wing virus and their effect on the health of brood and adult honey bees

Researchers: E Guzman, Paul H. Goodwin, Mollah Hamiduzzaman, Nuria Morfin, David Mackay (University of Guelph)

Objective: Analyze the interaction and effects of sublethal doses of clothianidin, V. destructor and deformed wing virus on honey bee development, health and behavior.


Sub-lethal effects of neonicitinoids on queen fertility and drone sperm viability

Researcher: Les Eccles (Ontario Bee Tech Transfer Program)

Objectives: 1) Determine sublethal doses of clothianidin and thiamothexam effects on virgin queens after which sperm counts are analyzed and sperm viability tested post mating, 2) Study sublethal doses of clothianidin and thiamothexam impacts on developing immature drones during the first two weeks of life, after which sperm counts and viability are tested once the drones are mature.


Detection of chemical residues in hive products (2011-2013)

Researchers: Stephen Pernal (Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada), Tom Thompson, Johan van den Heever, and Norine Best (Alberta Agriculture and Forestry), Greg Appleyard (Canadian Food Inspection Agency Calgary)

Objectives: 1) Develop analytical methods (LC-MS/MS) for the determination of multiple antibiotics and pesticides in pollen, honey and wax with particular attention to new generation agricultural pesticides and apicultural products, 2) Generate residue information related to environmental contamination of hive products, and 3) Analyze whether beekeepers are using antibiotics and acaricides in a manner that reduces the risk of violative residues entering the food chain.

Tech Transfer and Extension

Saskatchewan beekeepers adapting technology to meet their needs: hive health, colony mortality and productivity (2009-2014)

Researchers: Graham Parsons (Saskatchewan Tech Adaptation Team)

Objectives: 1) Testing treatment products for Varroa and tracheal mites, as well as Nosema sp., 2) Evaluation and adapting of existing treatments and their timing and configuration of application, and 3) Conducting an extension program of the research findings and best management practices for pest control and improved overwintering technique.


Implementation of bee best management practices: Business development extension program

Researcher: Medhat Nasr (Alberta Agriculture and Forestry)

Objectives: 1) Training industry on new management and business practices to improve bee health for crop pollination and production of honey that meets market demand, 2) Developing extension and educational resources including up to date fact sheets addressing production and managements practices, and 3) Utilizing efficiently the expertise of apiculture program staff to improve skills and aid in decision making processes.


Implementation of honey bee best management and On Farm Food Safety (OFFS) extension and tech-transfer Program

Researchers: Medhat Nasr (Alberta Agriculture and Forestry), Pramod Kumar

Objectives: 1) Deliver extension program and services on Farm Food Safety program based on science and innovative business tools to encourage industry adoption of technology and best practices, and 2) Develop extension and outreach materials for beekeeping training.