The University of Guelph will turn its long-standing research prowess in pollinator health and conservation into North America’s first one-stop shop for honey bee research, education and outreach.
U of G is planning a new, $12-million facility aimed at helping understand the stressors affecting honey bees and other pollinators and finding solutions.
A recent transformational gift from the Riviere Charitable Foundation will cover a substantial portion of the cost. A fundraising campaign has been launched to further support the initiative and raise an additional $6 million.
“Honey bees are among the most important insects in the world, and the University of Guelph leads the world in honey bee research and conservation,” said U of G president Franco Vaccarino.
U of G’s history and reputation for honey bee research goes back more than 120 years. “We are uniquely positioned to help make a difference, and this donation recognizes and celebrates our research strength and our innovativeness to find sustainable solutions,” Vaccarino said.
One-third of the food we eat depends on pollination. Worldwide, insect pollinators– including bees– are falling in diversity and numbers. “It is a serious problem threatening our food system and environment. Improving the health of bees and other pollinators is critically important,” Vaccarino said.
He added that the support received thus far puts the University at about the midway point of its fundraising campaign. “We are well on our way to creating a world-renowned centre of excellence.”
An international design competition for the new centre was launched in January. A design jury selected Moriyama and Teshima Architects for the project, and the design concepts were announced this week.
“We have been nothing short of inspired by the staff and the work of the Honey Bee Research Centre and the University of Guelph’s commitment to the sustainability and health of the agricultural industry in Ontario,” said Diarmuid Nash, a partner at Moriyama and Teshima.
The new centre will exemplify sustainability, including being built to LEED Gold standards and including elements such as natural ventilation and low-carbon construction. The University is considering locations on campus for the new facility.
“Our plan is to integrate the new centre within parts of U of G known for nature, food production and sustainability,” said Rene Van Acker, dean of the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC).
The new facility will house the existing Honey Bee Research Centre, which currently numbers more than 300 hives used in teaching and research. The hives produce honey (more than 28 tons sold annually), beeswax, pollen and queen bees.
Interactive teaching spaces will help accommodate visitors and programming. Currently, more than 4,000 people visit the centre annually and more than 700 students take courses each year. The new facility will expand the University’s capacity to address honey bee health through teaching, Van Acker said.
“Anyone interested in honey bee health and management will be able to come and explore their interests in a state-of-the-art facility,” he said.
Apiculture training and research was established in the Ontario Agricultural College in 1894. Today, the Honey Bee Research Centre continues that tradition as the home to North America’s largest research and teaching apiary.
World-renowned experts in conservation and bee health hold U of G research chairs – notably the Rebanks Family Chair in Pollinator Conservation and the Pinchin Family Chair in Bee Health – that boost research and awareness of the plight of pollinators. This includes environmental sciences professor Ernesto Guzman, known globally for his research on bee disease, who holds the Pinchin chair and is director of the Honey Bee Research Centre.
“This new facility will build on these strengths and promote new innovations and discoveries,” Van Acker said. “It will bring together faculty, students, industry, government and other researchers from around the world.”
More information about the University’s Honey Bee Research Centre and new facility can be found at alumni.uoguelph.ca/hbrc.