Bee diagnostic centre opens for business

March 20, 2013

From: Grande Prairie Daily Herald Tribune


By Aaron Hinks


Honeybee samples from across the country are expected to start coming through the doors at the National Bee Diagnostic Centre soon as the facility officially opens April 1.


Located at the Beaverlodge Research Farm, the NBDC is a state-of-the-art laboratory offering a one-of-a-kind national service.


Come April 1 beekeepers from across Canada can submit live or frozen samples of honeybees to the centre for diagnosis.


NBDC applied scientist manager Dr. Carlos Castillo will monitor the research taking place at the diagnostic centre.


Castillo expects there will be a huge demand for the service particularly from beekeepers in the Peace and into British Columbia.


“This is the perfect time (to open the service),” Castillo said. “Bees go into wintering late into the fall until the beginning of spring. (Beekeepers) are opening their colonies and starting to check the hives to see what happened over winter.”


Alberta Beekeepers Association board member Rodrigo Mendez of Spirit River, said the service would immediately impact local beekeepers.


“I hope people use (the service) right away. I think it’s going to be well used,” Mendez said. “There’s only so much that a beekeeper can do in the field. But they can get so much more detail, it’s going to help the region.”


The diagnostic service centre will help beekeepers keep up-to-date with developments in the industry, he added.


“It’s an industry that is constantly evolving and changing, there are new challenges, new pests. We don’t know what we’re going to be hit with next. Some chemicals may be good this year, but they may not be good next year,” Mendez said.


According to Statistics Canada, in 2011 there were 7,671 beekeepers across Canada who produced 78.1 million pounds of honey.


Beaverlodge Research Farm scientist and officer-in-charge Dr. Stephen Pernal has estimated that the direct annual contribution of honeybee pollination to agricultural is more than $2 billion.


Between 2003 and 2009 there were 605,288 bee colonies in Canada, 237,060 of which were in Alberta. In 2006, the bee winter mortality rate rose from 15% to 40%, at the time Canada did not have a designated research facility to monitor fatality.


The services available at NBDC include nosema spore counts and identification, varroa count, tracheal mite detection, European foulbrood (EFB) detection, American foulbrood (AFB) detection and antibiotic resistance determination, and virus detection.


“Please contact us for the sample procedures and the prices of our services. We’re open to discuss with (beekeepers) and share ideas. The keepers are the ones who are every day dealing with bees, they know better than anybody how to manage bees. We want to keep that expertise too, we want to work together,” Castillo said.


The $1,193,500 facility was funded through the Western Economic Diversification sector of the federal government. The Rural Alberta Development Fund provided $925,360 to cover the facility’s operational costs for three years.


The centre is operated through the Grande Prairie Regional College’s Centre for Research and Innovation, and is a partnership with Agriculture and AgriFood Canada.


The NBDC can be reached by calling 780-357-7737.

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