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Help Canadian vet students eager to extend their honey bee knowledge

Beekeeping Canadian style

Veterinary students at the University of Calgary in Canada have caught the bee bug and, through their own initiative, set up a Honeybee Health Club to learn more about an animal for which they have new responsibilities. As students they are short of cash and so are seeking modest funds to help equip a teaching apiary on campus.

Vita Bee Health is already helping and any funds the students can gather are being matched by a generous anonymous donor. The club’s GoFundMe page has so far raised Can$1,660 and they are keen to boost this quickly so that the teaching apiary can open this season.

Allison Kwantes, vice president of the Honeybee Health Club, says that the interest in the club from fellow veterinary students has been so great that half of them have already and are eager to help out in the apiary. Allison said: “There is no honeybee content on their course, so we have even begun organising their own series of extra-mural lectures on bees. We already manage out-apiaries but to have one on campus will make a much bigger impact.”

Spyhill Campus, University of Calgary, Canada

The new honeybee responsibilities for vets began in December 2018, when new Canadian regulations required that certain animal medicinal products could only be obtained on prescription through vets. Honeybees were included in the regulation which covered all livestock and pets – any animal, in fact.

Allison says that there was probably already a latent interest in honeybees among her student cohort who are increasingly aware of the insect’s ecological importance.

Local honeybee specialist and Vita Bee Health representative Medhat Nasr elaborated: “Southern Alberta is at the heart of the Canadian honeybee and pollination industry – 70% of Canada’s 525,000 beehives are in the prairie provinces. One key pollination activity of honeybees in Southern Alberta is to ensure the supply of pedigreed hybrid canola seeds for growing the 10 million hectares of canola in Canada. This speciality pedigreed canola seed industry is highly dependent on 70,000 bee hives to pollinate this crop every year.”

Beekeeping has attracted lots of hobbyists in the area too – Allison’s interest in bees was first sparked because her mother was a beekeeper.

The student-driven honeybee project is making an impact and greatly helped by match-funding from an anonymous donor, a hobbyist beekeeper who is acutely aware of the environmental importance of heathy honey bees. Members of the faculty are also becoming involved, so their initiative is already raising the honey bee profile in the area.

Sebastian Owen, commercial director at Vita Bee Health, said: “We have been extremely impressed by this student-led initiative and are keen to support its development. To be assured that vets are so well informed about bees will be a great asset to the pollination industry and the hobbyist community in Alberta and beyond.”

The students aim to make their project self-sustaining and to embed knowledge of honeybees into their course.

If you would like to help the students, set up their campus apiary and have your donation match-funded, please see their GoFundMe page.

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