Bee colonies in Canada have been devastated by disease and pests over the past four years – so the federal government has announced $244,000 for Ontario beekeepers to help researchers engineer a new superbee.

MP Pat Davidson, who represents Sarnia, Ont., announced the funding for the Ontario Beekeepers' Association to research which types of bees are most pest-resistant, in order to help stop the decline of honey bee colonies.

The project aims to help beekeepers secure sustainable honey harvests and provide pollination services to the fruit and vegetable industry.

The universities of Guelph and Manitoba will spearhead the research

Les Eccles, with the Beekeepers Association, said the project is also important to fruit and vegetable production.

"Even meat needs pollination services. The food that feeds cattle — alfalfa, clover, those types of things — they need to be pollinated," Eccles said. "Our cheap food supply really depends on honeybees."

Eccles said disease and pests have killed off up to 45 per cent of his bee colony in the past.

"Other beekeepers had a lot worse — they were losing 90 up to 100 per cent of their bees."

Eccles said it's normal to lose five to 10 per cent of a colony annually, but over the last four years, Ontario beekeepers have been averaging losses of about 35 per cent.

The grant will also help researchers screen new products to control pests and diseases and help beekeepers better manage their colonies.

The funding comes from the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program, which aims to help Canadian agriculture adapt and remain competitive.