Nova Scotia blueberry producers hope more bees will improve crop
New program aims to double bee hive numbers by 2025.
Atlantic Canada's blueberry producers are hoping there will be a lot more buzz around their plants next season.
New investment focusing on honey bees in the region is expected to have a huge impact on the amount of blueberries they harvest.
"It's about improving bee health and productivity by supporting those industries and ultimately supporting blueberry pollination," said Peter Burgess, wild blueberry specialist with Perennia Food and Agriculture Ltd. in Bible Hill.
Bees are essential in the pollination process that transforms blooms into berries.
The federal government and the provincial governments of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are investing $355,000 aimed at expanding the industry.
Double hive numbers
Atlantic Canada is a world leader in harvesting and exporting of wild blueberries.
New funding will help increase the number of bee hives per acre of berries to three from the one or two that currently exist.
That increase is expected to add $40 million to the wild blueberry industry.
The goal is to double the hive numbers by 2025.
"We'll have our two apiculturists help with improving the practices of beekeepers, helping with bio-security, helping with overall bee health," said Burgess.
"[With] things like pest management and over-wintering, so they're more productive and sustainable and have sustainable growth."
Working with beekeepers
About 74 million kilograms of wild blueberries were harvested in the Atlantic region in 2015.
Apiculturist Robyn McCallum will be working with producers and is looking forward to seeing those numbers grow.
"I think the one-on-one interaction with beekeepers is important because there are lots of great techniques that are out there that are working. But we need to be aware of them and transfer them to other beekeepers," said McCallum.
The key will be "getting out there and hitting the ground, making sure that we are relevant and in tune with the industry so people can put a face to the program."
The harvest may be over but work is being done to get 38,000 hives ready for the winter, to produce healthy honey bees ready for next spring's pollinating season.
- A previous version of the story said wild blueberry production amounted to 7,400 kilograms annually in the Atlantic region. The number is in fact 74 million kilograms.Sep 30, 2016 10:42 AM AT