BeeCSI: ‘omic tools for assessing bee health
Honey bees are crucial to Canada’s agriculture. They contribute up to $5.5 billion/y to our economy by pollinating valuable Canadian crops, such as blueberries, apples, and hybrid canola seed and by producing over 41,000 metric tonnes of honey. However, the health of honey bees has been declining over the past decade, with Canadian beekeepers losing more than a quarter of their colonies each winter since 2006-07. The causes of bee declines are complex, variable over space and time, and often difficult to identify. Beekeepers and government regulators lack the appropriate tools to quickly diagnose and differentiate among the multiple stressors impacting colonies, which has hindered their ability to manage and improve bee health.
Our team of researchers will improve the health of Canadian honey bees by developing BeeCSI – a new health assessment and diagnosis platform powered by stressor-specific markers. We will work with a large number of beekeepers, industry technology-transfer teams, and diagnostic labs, and will consult with federal and provincial regulatory entities to ensure that our tools are implemented and accessible to the beekeeping industry by the end of the project. By providing an objective means to diagnose bee health, our internationally-leading tools will be instrumental in reducing conflict between beekeepers, farmers and government regulators caused by uncertainty about the factors affecting bee health or colony losses. We estimate that our tools will have an economic benefit of at least $160M per year, in addition to ensuring the growth and sustainability of the beekeeping industry which supports a multi-billion-dollar sector of Canada’s agroeconomy.
BeeCSI was launched in October 2019.
We are proudly funded by Genome Canada and Ontario Genomics.