We have had a very eventful year at the HBRC with improvements to our social media outreach, starting online sales, publishing over 20 peer reviewed journal articles, and more!
For the past several years, we’ve wanted to build up our online presence. We feel that sharing what we learn and experience is a vital part of our responsibility. As we expand our programming leading up to building a new Honey Bee Research and Education Centre, this communication has become increasingly important. We have had success with fundraising for the new centre, but we still have a way to go before we can start construction.
Lydia Lukevich, a major donor for our new building, has been a huge help with guidance and financial support. Lydia introduced us to Cheryl McEwan, a talented individual with considerable experience in supporting major projects like ours. We asked Cheryl for advice and guidance with fundraising. She immediately got to work with Caroline Gilbert, a marketing consultant who has experience working with major corporations. Working together, they examined the resources we had and determined what we could improve on. Next, they came up with a very extensive marketing plan including timelines, staffing and specific goals.
To be honest, we initially, we had some reservations about the scale of the project, but with the guidance and encouragement from Cheryl and Caroline we felt confident that it would succeed. Rene Van Acker, the OAC dean, threw his support into the initiative to help us hire two students, Namseet Ghurbhurrun and Zoey Ross.
We have been using social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. On these platforms we’ve posted information about new research, weekly updates about colony conditions, information for beekeepers, honey themed recipes, and HBRC activities. We’ve been delighted to hear positive feedback and we plan to embed these activities into our work culture. Education for beekeepers and the general public is the prime focus.
Over the past five years we have had success with producing and posting educational YouTube videos. Our channel currently has 6.5 million views and 60 thousand subscribers. Our videos break beekeeping down into skill building components and are designed to be concise and clear. Part of our marketing plan was to produce more educational videos, so we filmed and released 14 new YouTube videos. These videos were partially funded by the OMAFRA Knowledge Translation and Transfer Program. In addition, we also monetized our channel, generating a monthly revenue that will allow us to fund future videos.
We took on writing a newsletter (the one you’re reading right now!) that will come out seasonally. The purpose of this newsletter is to inform the public about the activities, events and accomplishments at the HBRC We have a template to follow which includes a volunteer spotlight, a hive update, a featured hive product and more.
We also established an online store using Shopify. This allows us to sell a wide range of products in an efficient manner. It was perfect timing for COVID curbside pickup sales. We are now able to accept any method of payment with our Shopify point of sales hardware and software. These initiatives have helped increase our sales, generating the funds needed to hire students to assist with our research and education activities.
We developed and offered an online beekeeping course for the first time, last spring. We are planning to use it to create a more accessible beekeeping course that can be offered on a continual basis.
Our research has continued through COVID and 2021 was our most productive year ever. Dr Ernesto Guzman and his team published 22 peer reviewed journal articles. This is an incredible feat! This could not have been accomplished without the ‘Nuria Factor’. Dr. Nuria Morfin started working with us 14 years ago as an intern. She went on to complete a PhD and post-doctoral studies with us. She is an amazingly accomplished beekeeper and researcher. Nuria also taught the undergraduate Introductory Apiculture course, worked as a provincial bee inspector with OMAFRA and kept her own bees in Mexico. Nuria has now moved to Abbotsford to lead the BC Tech-Transfer Program. Our loss is British Columbia’s gain! Congratulations Nuria!
Our Buckfast breeding program has continued on Thorah and Georgina Islands in Lake Simcoe. The bee yard on Thorah Island was in a wet location for 28 years and it was getting more and more difficult to access each year. We moved it to a drier location and at the same time, built two small staff accommodation buildings in the new yard. We received donations from The Printing House (the O’Born family) to support our Buckfast Breeding Program and used some of the funds for the buildings. We can now expand the number of drone and mating colonies on the Island as we can work longer days. In the Lake Simcoe area we have three amazing long term volunteers that have helped us with these projects, Jack Lawrence, Bill Mitchell and Laurie Simard. Jack has been volunteering for 27 years! They have been very generous with their time, resources, and knowledge of the Island.
Our staff and researchers have also been busy outside of work too. Staff member Rory Wills and Ph.D. candidate Wissarut Sukhaket (Aon) won a total of five awards for their stunning photography in the University of Guelph’s ‘Through the Lens’ photo contest. The contest was open to all faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students. Wissarut’s photo, titled “Dare to love” showed a pair of male and female peacock mantises, originally from Thailand. His photo was awarded Best in Show, first place in the graduate student category and community choice. Rory submitted three photos titled ‘Queen Bee’, ‘Dewy Damselfly’, and ‘Life Stages’ which shows the life stages of our honey bees here at the HBRC. ‘Dewey Damselfly’ won first place in the undergraduate category, and ‘Life Stages’ was awarded honorable mention.
In addition to taking award winning photos, Rory has also written an article for the Ontario Bee Journal about insect photography. He goes over the do’s and don’ts about taking photos of bees that he has learned through experience of taking photos of our own honey bees.
It has been a very productive year. Many of the changes we made were long standing goals and necessary improvements in our work environment. The support we received helped us push through to achieving results that will pay off over the long term in our honey bee advocacy.