This summer has kept the HBRC busier than ever. Post-Covid, interest in our centre’s tours has increased as well, and we often hosted more than one tour in a day. We welcomed all types of groups for tours this year, from the daycare’s little toddlers to OMAFRA personnel. Any group is welcome to send us an email to schedule a tour. We offer online and in-person presentations through the fall, to groups on and off-campus.
Our drop-in tours, which debuted for the first time ever this year, remain an undiscovered gem. Held every first and third Wednesday in June, July, and August, the tours start with an educational explanation of honeybee behaviour and biology, and progress into the bee yard where participants can see the inner workings of a hive, hold a drone, and even taste some honey straight from the comb! We would like to promote these tours more next year to improve attendance.
A feature that always piqued interest with tour groups was the large, solemn pillar of hives standing at the back of the bee yard.?Believed (by us) to be the tallest beehive in the world, the structure that overlooks our bee yard is affectionally referred to as the B.N. Tower.
On July 22nd, 2021, we set up the current version of the B.N. Tower. The updated model features seven more brood boxes on top and includes a four brood chamber colony living in the bottom, complete with live bees.
Our team kept the stakes high through the year by betting on the fate of our B.N. Tower. Bets were taken on whether the tower would tumble down or stand strong, and if the bees inside would thrive or perish. There were a few close calls, but in the end the B.N. Tower survived multiple windstorms and hurricane warnings and remains upright to this day. Not only that, but the colony survived as well! The lucky team members who voted for the tower’s success took home 2 dollars in winnings, while the rest of us pooled our money to try again next year.
Many staff members generously decided to donate their winnings to the funds for the new research centre. The University Board of Governors requires that 75% of the funds for the building are accounted for before construction of the new building starts, and as of this spring, we have achieved that goal. With the designs for the building finalized as well, we hope that in October the Board of Governors will approve the 15-million-dollar project and construction can finally begin. We look forward to presenting the new face of the HBRC in a few years! Construction is expected to take 18 months to complete. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for our HBRC Grand Opening: Date TBD.
Our fundraising activities are still ongoing, and we appreciate any contributions that come our way.
On the other side of our centre, our research team is hard at work improving honeybee health! Recently, our PhD candidate Alvaro De la Mora received the 2020 Best Paper Award from the Journal of Veterinary Sciences for his publication discussing Nosema infections in honeybee populations. The North American Pollinator Protection Campaign awarded Alvaro the Honeybee Health Improvement Project Grant for his research into varroa mite populations in honeybee colonies.
Alvaro also received the EAS Student Award from the Eastern Apiculture Society of North America and the Beatty Munro Family Memorial Scholarship from Dr. and Mrs. J.A. Munro. Along with this award, Alvaro travelled to Ithaca, United States, to attend the Eastern Apiculture Society conference. We are very proud to have Alvaro representing the HBRC internationally.
Back here in Canada, Dr. Ernesto Guzman brushed up on his instrumental insemination techniques for our Low Varroa Growth (LVG) breeding program. Though it is a difficult and arduous process, it allows for complete control over queen mating. It is an essential part of our research. At the HBRC, instrumental insemination is used to test the offspring of the inseminated queens for genetic markers associated with LVG. Using drones from Low Varroa Growth hives and High Varroa Growth hives, we can breed in both directions to compare the genetic differences.
Speaking of queens, this summer we re-established our queen sales program. We sold locally mated Buckfast queens as well as island mated Buckfast queens, and due to the high interest, expect to continue sales again next year. Post Covid, honey sales are picking up, as events that were postponed, like weddings, start up again, and buy our honey as favors or gifts. Honey sales are soaring on campus too as more and more students return to in person classes.
Now that students are back on campus, our team gathered together to partake in an age-old University ritual, painting the cannon. The cannon, dubbed ‘Old Jeremiah’, was moved around campus for over 50 years before it was cemented down in the square, facing the President of the University’s office. Now, student groups wait until dusk, paint the cannon, and guard it through the night to ensure no one else paints over it. We painted the cannon to look like a beautiful bee and spent lots of time ensuring that the bee was anatomically correct – a hard thing to do, considering the shape of the cannon. Our team took a risk and decided to paint the cannon during working hours; since it’s summertime, we figured there wouldn’t be many groups queuing up to paint it. Unfortunately, we misjudged – and not an hour after we had finished painting, another group took our place. This group was actually one that had come to the HBRC for tours earlier in the week! We joked that they would not be welcome back, after painting over our hard work! Such is the nature of the cannon, and of course it was all in friendly competition.
Nevertheless, our team had a great experience, and made long lasting memories. Our manager, Paul Kelly, is thrilled with the performance of the HBRC team this year. We have a much larger group than in previous years. Post Covid, we were able to welcome more volunteers and international interns, and the wide range of knowledge and abilities resulted in a completely complementary skillset that has created a very functional group. We are fortunate to have enough turnover of staff from last year to this year that training new staff this year went very smoothly, and in no time at all, we got everyone up to speed. Aon and Alvaro, our fantastic graduate students, have also been a great help in managing team efforts.
All in all, it’s been a great summer here at the HBRC. We have accomplished a lot and are excited to share everything with our community.