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Vancity report on honeybees outlines their growing multimillion-dollar impact on B.C. economy

B.C. honeybees generate close to $500 million in economic activity, according to a new report from Vancity credit union I Photo: Jennifer Gauthier, Burnaby Now

Some of British Columbia’s most valuable workers are bucking a global trend and pulling up their bootstraps to help the local economy.

B.C. honeybees generate close to $500 million in economic activity, according to a new report from Vancity credit union. Local bees are also thriving amidst a global shortage with one of the highest annual colony survival rates.

A thriving bee population is good for the economy, according to Mark Winston, author of the report.

“Our fate is entangled with the bees. We depend on honeybees and wild bees to pollinate our crops, almost $600 billion dollars in global annual value, and without bees most of the fruits, berries, vegetables and oilseed crops we depend on simply wouldn’t exist,” said Winston, a professor of biological sciences at Simon Fraser University and senior fellow at the school’s Centre for Dialogue

Winston has been studying bees for 40 years. He is the author of Bee Time: Lessons From the Hive, winner of the 2015 Governor Generals Literary Award for Nonfiction. Winston calls bees a bellwether to our survival as a species.

“Bees are declining worldwide, due to heavy global pesticide use, diminished nectar and pollen sources and an increase in bee diseases and pests. This is not a trivial issue, the potential demise of bees does not bode well for our human future.”

The global bee shortage has been a newsworthy trend for years, with many warning a significant drop in numbers could have grave effects. We need to continue to ensure our province remains a bee haven, said Winston.

“B.C. has a robust diversity of wild bees, which if supported through habitat restoration, would improve farmer income through enhanced pollination and increased crop yields, thereby maintaining low fruit and vegetable prices for consumers,” he said,

The Vancity report, titled Sweet Deal: The value of bees to British Columbia’s economy, outlines how the bees’ economic contribution rose 67% from 2001 to 2014. In line with this growth is an increase in beekeepers. The number of beekeepers in B.C. has risen 35% since 2009, with a noteworthy jump in those under 40 years old. B.C. bees are thriving because of a “high level of expertise” among local beekeepers, a robust extension and training program from both the government and private sector and access to a highly diversified and abundance of flowering plants which bees use to forage for nectar and pollen.