A (more recent) history of the honey bee in Canada
In a previous article, we detailed how the honey bee did not originate in Europe but was slowly brought there (and eventually to Canada) for the production of honey. As commercial beekeepers began to grow more common, the role of the honey bee evolved as well.
Even though our country is still a major honey producer—with 95 million pounds produced in 2015—we also use managed honey bees for another reason: the pollination itself.
Frequently, pollination services are provided by beekeepers who have special relationships with farmers, and whole colonies will be transported from field to field. Not only is this good for the crops, but crops like canola are a valuable source of nutrition for honey bees.
Every year, Canada’s canola farmers employ nearly half of the honey bee colonies in the country to pollinate their crops, which can increase yields and enhance quality significantly, in part due to bees transferring pollen more effectively. This activity alone involves almost 300,000 honey bee colonies.
The development of new hybrid varieties has been critical to the success of Canada’s canola industry, and pollination is necessary for the production of quality canola hybrid seed. Another 80,000 colonies are utilized specifically to pollinate the specialized hybrid seed canola industry.
It’s in part because of these specialized uses of honey bees that Canada is the leader in canola production worldwide.
Blueberries and Apples
Like canola, blueberries and apples are examples of other food-producing crops that require pollination services, with honey bees being a critically important contributor to the production of high-yielding, high-quality crops every season.
Beekeepers also bring their hives to farms to create honey made exclusively with pollen from specific crops. This includes the production of single-source honeys that taste like blueberries, clover, lavender and more!