Designs have been unveiled for a new, $12-million, Honey Bee Research Centre at the University of Guelph.
The facility will be North America’s first one-stop shop for honey bee research, education and outreach.
The university announced recently that Moriyama & Teshima Architects won an international competition to design the facility. Plans were unveiled at Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto.
Renderings show a building that has large glass windows with a structure rising from the middle that resembles a beehive, surrounded by a walkway and a field of beehouses.
“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 iconic complex will be a mass timber structure built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold standards and exemplify sustainability. It will include elements such as natural ventilation and low-carbon building materials.
Sustainable architecture features will include a solar chimney, a geothermal exchange system and solar power.
The complex will house the university’s existing honey bee research centre, which currently numbers more than 300 hives. The hives are used for teaching and research and produce more than 28 tonnes of honey annually, along with beeswax, pollen and queen bees.
The facility will have a visitor’s centre and space to increase colony numbers.
Worldwide, insect pollinators — including bees — are falling in diversity and numbers,
— Franco Vaccarino
University of Guelph
The university is now considering locations on campus for the new facility. It will be part of the school’s Ontario Agricultural College (OAC).
According to Rene Van Acker, dean of the OAC, the new facility will expand the university’s capacity to address honey bee health through teaching.
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.
Anyone interested in honey bee health and management will be able to come and explore their interests in a state-of-the-art facility, said Van Acker.
“This new facility will build on these strengths and promote new innovations and discoveries. It will bring together faculty, students, industry, government and other researchers from around the world.”
The university says the centre, North America’s largest research and teaching apiary, will be an education, outreach, research and event centre dedicated to sustainability, honey bee health and well-being.
The centre will aid researchers in understanding the stressors affecting honey bees and other pollinators and finding solutions.
University president Franco Vaccarino said in a statement that honey bees are the most important insects in the world and the school leads the world in honey bee research and conservation.
He noted that the university’s history and reputation for honey bee research goes back more than 120 years.
“One-third of the food we eat depends on pollination,” he stated. “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.”
A gift from the Riviere Charitable Foundation will cover a substantial portion of the cost of the centre. A fundraising campaign has been launched to further support the initiative and raise an additional $6 million.
“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.
Paul Kelly, apiary manager at the research centre, says in a video on the university website that the present facilities are “maxed out” due to demand.
Researchers at the centre have done experiments to determine the most significant factors affecting bees and found the main one is a parasitic mite that attacks and feeds on the insects and causes disease. They are now looking to use plant oils and organic acids that will control the mites and not affect the bees.
“The new facility will give us much more opportunity for public engagement,” says Kelly.
Director of the centre, Ernesto Guzman, who is known globally for his research on bee disease, notes that the facility will enable research into bee health and provide a better understanding of the stressors that affect the insects.
“The new facility will be an iconic building. It will also be a window to the world to show that the University of Guelph and Ontario and Canada are leading on bee research.”
He says that bee colonies across Canada, North America and Europe are declining in number, which is a big concern because bees are essential to the production of food.
“There is no question that honey bees are the most valuable insects to humankind,” he states.
One third of the food produced on the planet is pollinated by bees.
Rod Scarlett, executive director of the Canadian Honey Council, says that having a world-class facility with the capacity for advanced research and outreach is essential to the apicultural industry in Canada.
“The Honey Bee Research Centre will now continue to be an even stronger model for Canada and the world of progressive and innovative beekeeping activity.”