New honey bee research centre planned for University of Guelph

Honey Bee Research Centre manager Paul Kelly

Saving honey bees from ongoing population declines will be the focus of the new Luckevich Pinchin Honey Bee Research Centre, set to open at the University of Guelph in 2025.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held this week to kick off construction of the $16-million centre. The new facility is billed as an upgrade to the existing pollinator research, teaching, and public outreach hub at the university that already looks after the largest number of honeybee research colonies in North America.

The 15,000-square-foot centre will feature indoor and outdoor education spaces, classroom and event space, a laboratory, bee breeding facilities and pollinator gardens.

Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) associate dean John Cranfield says the research centre will scale up both research and outreach. “The new facility will give the centre space to grow its engagement with apiarists, with community members interested in learning more about pollinators and honeybees, and with young people looking to be a part of positive change to support pollinators and to ensure a healthy environment and a safe food supply.”

Among donors to the project, Lydia Luckevich, a 1979 U of G chemistry alumna, will provide $7.5 million. The centre will be named for Luckevich and for her late husband, Don Pinchin, founder of Pinchin Ltd., an environmental consulting firm.

The research centre has been part of OAC since 1894. For decades it has occupied a 1960s-era bungalow on campus near the U of G Arboretum. The new facility will be built nearby.

Researchers at U of G and elsewhere use the centre to investigate the causes and potential solutions for recent declines of pollinators including honey bees, says Paul Kelly, research and apiary manager with the HBRC.

Recent and ongoing research projects include breeding of bees resistant to varroa mites, studying essential plant oils and organic acids for use as naturally occurring miticides, and investigation of prebiotics, probiotics and protein-based nutrition supplements to counter bee gut parasites.

Kelly said the new centre will provide improved laboratory space for bee breeding and incubation as well as enhanced facilities for various research projects involving U of G faculty members, students and other collaborating investigators.

Currently the U of G facilities accommodate research, teaching and demonstrations and queen breeding in the same apiary. The new quarters will allow for those functions to take place in separate, dedicated apiaries for greater efficiency and improved health of hives and bees.

The building will also provide more dedicated space for popular education programs that attract a range of professional and backyard beekeepers as well as schools and other groups.

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