Alberta spring weather has been just that - springing between winter and summer. The finer days gave us an opportunity to check on our bees but the discovery of many dead hives was discouraging. There had been many more losses since our February inspection which is puzzling and unfortunately the issue is wide spread as many beekeepers in our region, large and small, have discovered the same thing. We don't yet know the cause and unfortunately there may not be any simple reasons or solutions.
Which begs the question, who is going to research this latest challenge to our honey bees? In Alberta, beekeepers benefit from the work of our provincial Apiculturist office as well as a handful of skilled scientists at the Alberta Beekeepers Commission, AAFC- Beaverlodge, UofA and UofL. The difficulty is that we need more than a handful. Wouldn't it be useful if 'citizen science' could play a part?
In Canada there are a number of citizen science projects involving bees. Close to home, the University of Calgary operates 'Bee a Scientist' to monitor pollinator populations in the city. On Vancouver Island, the 'Island Pollinator Initiative' educates about and monitors pollinators in that unique climate. Ontario has a few similar organizations. Most of these organizations fall under the umbrella of the international 'Pollinator Partnership'. The main thrust of these groups is to monitor pollinators in general, but couldn't there could be a place for volunteers to help with this latest Alberta dilemma? Perhaps there is a requirement for data analysts or even GIS specialists? The Alberta honeybee Tech Transfer team is looking into these options, as well as mite monitoring by volunteer beekeepers and will keep us posted. If this proves to be another major blow to our honey industry it would be wonderful to have volunteer experts supporting us.