Almost half of Canada's honeybee colonies did not survive the winter of 2021, the most significant loss of honeybees in 20 years. Bees are vital to our world and economy, with the security of our food supply depending on pollinators. That is why there is a definite buzz about RDAR funding an Alberta beekeeper project to fight the Varroa destructor mite (Varroa), a deadly parasite infecting bees and destroying bee colonies.
Alberta Beekeepers Commission (ABC) and Vatorex will receive $653,227 in funding, with $161,000 costshared by the federal and provincial governments through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP). This project will position Alberta as a pioneer in beneficial beekeeping practices and sustainable apiculture.
"We saw last season how the Varroa mite can decimate bee populations and it is critical that our scientists continue to look for effective treatments. This eco-friendly solution will help beekeepers keep their hives safe and healthy, ensuring the success of their business and allowing the bees to continue their essential work for agriculture.” The Honourable Marie Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
"I’m pleased to see partnerships like this in action as we work towards a sustainable future for our agri-food sector. Alberta is a major producer of honey, with about 40 per cent of the annual national total, and the pollination services our beekeeping industry provides are an essential part of our crop sector’s ongoing success.” Nate Horner, Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation
"The development of a Varroa control solution by Vatorex will support bee producers in controlling Varroa and guarantee the long-term sustainability of the apicultural industry in Alberta and beyond. RDAR and ABC investment into Varroa control measures will broadly benefit bee health and the many crops dependent on honeybee pollination." Clinton Dobson – RDAR Executive Director, Research
Swiss agri-tech start-up Vatorex was founded in 2016 to develop a chemical-free solution to the Varroa mite, a primary cause of global honeybee losses. Vatorex's patented Varroa solution consists of automated heat treatment, effectively destroying mites with no harm to bees. The Vatorex bee-friendly treatment is delivered for the entire season versus intensively in the fall, resulting in a consistently healthy bee population.
"We are incredibly excited by our partnership with the ABC and RDAR. This shared commitment towards an effective, profitable and environmentally positive solution to Varroa, is a paradigm shift for commercial beekeeping.” Pascal Brunner - Vatorex CEO
Although many factors can lead to bee death, parasites such as the Varroa mite remain one of
beekeepers most significant challenges. The mite feeds on the bee’s body, weakening the bee, and overwhelming the bee’s immune system; many colonies die within six months to two years of exposure without treatment.
"Every honeybee colony in the continental United States and Canada is susceptible to
infestations with Varroa destructor mites (Varroa). Controlling Varroa naturally and sustainably
is critical for beekeeping. The Alberta Beekeepers Commission is pleased to be an integral
partner with RDAR and Vatorex to evaluate Vatorex's patented Varroa controlling technology
with commercial beekeepers in Alberta." Connie Phillips, Executive Director - Alberta Beekeepers Commission
Outcomes from this project will benefit Alberta beekeepers. Increased colony strength and lower bee losses will lead to an increased honey yield and, therefore, higher income for beekeepers. The automated Vatorex treatment will reduce labour costs and eliminate the expense of replenishing queens and colonies.