Big Brother watching bee colonies

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The hardest worker in the country just might be a buzzing insect, and the federal government is taking notice. 

An investment of $1 million is being made from the Government of Canada to initiate a four-year nationwide surveillance project to document the health of bees. 

For the first time a national surveillance will be done to identify the commonality of bees across the country. The data that is collected will be used to support Canada's position for international trade of honey bee stock.

"Our government understands the fundamental role bees play in keeping Canadian agriculture strong," said Agriculture Minister, Gerry Ritz. 

"This industry-led initiative will explore ways to keep Canada's bee population healthy while contributing to our overall economy.

According to Geoff Wilson, Saskatchewan Provincial Specialist in Apiculture, Saskatchewan produces some of the highest quality honey in the world. In 2013, the total value of honey produced in Canada was $176 million. 

Although bees help contribute to our economy, they are more important as pollinators. 

"Bees not only make honey and wax, but they're responsible for pollination. They're worth more for pollinators than they are for honey," said Wilson. 

For the past few years, hives in the province have been strong, however, this year bees aren't fully growing.

"The cold spring has been difficult for the bees to grow and go up to full size. The bees aren't as strong as they have been in past years" said Wilson. 

Despite the late spring, Wilson is optimist colonies will bounce back after the long winter.

"They might not be as productive this year, but that depends on July and August."

The Beekeepers Commission of Alberta is spearheading the national project that will record the nature, extent and prevalence of diseases, pest organisms and chemical residues in Canadian beehives. 

So far, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has invested over $2.6 million for 22 projects with industry councils to improve the health and sustainability of bee colonies. 

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