Research, Education and Collaboration
Ensure Hive Future is a Federal Not-for-Profit Organization that conducts apiary research and education to produce mite resistant, locally adapted honey bees. This grass roots project on Vancouver Island now has 3 seasons of experience with education, collaboration and queen rearing. Our team has raised strong V.S.H. (Varroa Sensitive Hygiene) queens and provided them to many apiaries ranging from back yard to commercial apiaries throughout B.C.
Ethical Bees, a commercial apiary with access to USDA genetics and V.S.H II (Instrumental Insemination) breeding capability, led to the creation of Ensure Hive Future. Ethical Bees and Ensure Hive Future are two partner entities with the common goal of achieving a self-sufficient supply of Better Bees in BC.
Bees are very specific to their microclimate, and it is our goal to breed Better Bees that have traits adapted to their microclimate. Through testing and education, it is possible to produce locally adapted honey bees that can better withstand pathogens and pests currently causing high mortality. Our genetic development program is modeled upon peer reviewed work by the USDA Agricultural Research Bee Lab in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We are benefiting from tens of millions of dollars of research going back to 1995. We have direct access to the U.S.D.A. V.S.H. program germplasm (=living genetic resources) to produce strong V.S.H. breeder queens based upon highly selected Carniolan sub-species. The best bees are selected from ‘survival stock’, which means that there is no chemical intervention to produce these bees, they depend on natural resistance to survive. This approach allows us to produce queens that are both V.S.H. and locally adapted.
We are at the stage where we can test and select from the best adapted, mite resistant bees in each region and create numerous top V.S.H. breeder queens specific to each region. Data analysis will be used to select the best germplasm, which will be collected for Instrumental Insemination (II) of the breeder queens.
In addition to better germplasm, we aim to further the self-sufficiency of Better Bees in B.C.
Currently, the status quo has a very heavy reliance on imported bees, primarily from New Zealand. The imported bees have no local immunity and no resistance to mites. These colonies are highly stressed after being removed from their home and caged for days as they change sides of the equator. They must then readjust to a different hemisphere, disrupting their annual cycle. These bees often require chemical interventions and frequently cause health issues for their neighbours.
Several small-scale apiaries are now providing both V.S.H. NUCS and queens to their community as a direct result of our collaboration. This is a very significant change from the unsustainable status quo of imports that negatively affect the community.
There are many people within the beekeeping community who are skeptical of science, which demonstrates the need for improved education and community awareness. We believe that grassroots, participatory research is the best way to engage the community.
Our requests to provide education and talks come from both Bee Clubs and Farmers Institutes. We are providing education for people from urban and rural areas about what they can do for pollinators. We have members in our group who professionally teach both Permaculture and Regenerative Agriculture.
Our capacity for public outreach is expanding and we are currently working on social media and web development, educational courses, seminars, field days, and documentaries.