USask researchers working to prevent honeybee loss among blueberry pollinators

Click to play video: 'Usask researchers looking into honey bee pollination with blueberries'
Usask researchers looking into honey bee pollination with blueberries
WATCH: A student from Ukraine is working with the University of Saskatchewan to get a better understanding of honey bees and why blueberry crops pose a key question – Sep 16, 2022

A Ukrainian student applied for a research internship in Canada last fall.

When Sofiia Markova was set to leave, Russia attacked Ukraine, but that didn’t stop her.

“It was great, less about war and more about work, so it helped,” says Sofiia Markova, Research Student.

Through the Mitacs Globalink Research Internship Program, which offers students from across the world to study for 12-weeks in Canada.

“When the war started, it was very dangerous to leave Kyiv. I was concentrating on survival and didn’t really think about my internship,” said Markova, one of more than 60 Ukrainian students who took part in the Mitacs Globalink Research Internship program across Canada this year.

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“I’m extremely grateful to Mitacs and my new Canadian friends here in Saskatoon for giving me this opportunity.”

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Markova is working to solve Canada’s honeybee shortage and protect blueberry crops.

“Honey Bees contribute 90 per cent of the value of Canada’s blueberry crop each year, and so we cannot have blueberries without bees, and unfortunately honey bees are becoming sick, often when they pollinate blueberries,” says Sarah Wood, University of Saskatchewan associate professor.

Working with Sarah Wood, Markova is studying European foulbrood disease which is expected to be a leading cause of bee colony loss.

“We are trying to understand why this disease is more common in honeybees that are pollinating blueberries in Canada,” says Wood.

Markova and Woods are working to figure out what is causing the bees harm when pollinating.

“There are many different strains of the bacteria that caused this disease and we’re trying to understand what’s different about these strains in colonies pollinating blueberries that seems to make these colonies more prone to this disease,” says Wood.

While Markovas is working to find out why blueberries affect honeybees, B.C’s Blueberry Council is seeing the impact.

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“Blueberries don’t set fruit without pollinators so we are 100 per cent or very close to it, dependent on the pollination services that are provided by commercial honeybees, as well as the wild pollinators in the environment around our fields, so without bees we don’t have blueberries,” said Eric Gerbrandt, research director of the B.C. Blueberry Council.

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