Looking after bees is similar to solving a puzzle. There can be a variety of reasons why bees in a hive are not performing well, and it’s up to people like Geoff Wilson to find the right one.
Geoff is a provincial specialist in apiculture, the study and management of honeybees, with a provincial Ministry of Agriculture. Beekeeping is an important industry in Canada. Not only is it an important food source, but it also provides job opportunities and assists with natural cross pollination to increase yields. Geoff spends considerable time working with beekeepers to help them manage their hives and increase their profitability. He also manages the bee lab, which provides diagnostic testing for beekeepers so they can determine disease levels and best methods for dealing with them.
Geoff was raised in Ontario and often visited farms that were operated by his grandparents and uncles, inspiring an interest in agriculture. He helped one of their neighbours with their hives and soon realized that apiculture was a sector to which he wanted to belong. He graduated University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture and followed that with a Master’s Degree, focusing on honey bee genetics and diseases.
It’s not unusual to see Geoff in producers’ bee yards, conducting inspections on hives and counselling producers on best production practices. He advises inspectors for crop insurance purposes and helps develop policies that govern the sector. Geoff is also involved with federal organizations on various issues, including the registration of compounds for bee health and the importation of bees to ensure they pose a low disease risk to domestic hives.
The sector is relatively small across the country; Geoff says it’s a close-knit community and everyone shares their experiences and best practices. He enjoys meeting new producers and providing advice to get them started, as well as promoting the benefits of honey bees to other agricultural producers. He makes presentations at various seminars to encourage newcomers to try the profession. He admits that he’s been stung more than a few times, but that’s all part of the memorable experiences.