How Project Hive Pet Company Helps Save Bees in Canada
Project Hive Pet Company’s mission is to save the bees. Bees pollinate about a third of our food and provide tremendously valuable agricultural services—for free. The problem? Their habitat has been declining (see more in this blog post). We kicked off our launch in 2021 by partnering with The Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund, a nonprofit that works with landowners (farmers, government agencies, corporate campuses, schools, private landowners, etc.) to establish healthy pollinator habitat on wide swaths of land. To date, we’ve supported planting over 10 million square feet of flowering plants that nourish and sustain the bees. That’s just in the United States; we’re only getting started!
As news of our woof-worthy™ (and whiff-worthy!) dog toys and treats started spreading across North America, the kind folks across the border in Canada expressed interest in our company. In the fall of 2022, we were thrilled to start offering our products to retailers in Canada!
As much as our Canadian retail partners love our mission, they wanted to know:
How Does Project Hive Pet Company help save the bees in Canada?
It turns out that Canada has similar issues as the United States: habitat destruction. Bees everywhere need pesticide-free, insecticide-free flowers to feed on. So, we started looking for partners in Canada to do what The Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund does in the United States. While we could not find an exact match, we did find Rod Scarlett at the Canadian Honey Council.
What does the Canadian Honey Council do?
Established in 1940, the Canadian Honey Council is a nonprofit organization that exists to assist commercial beekeepers in Canada.
I recently sat down with Rod Scarlett (well, via Zoom—so almost) and asked him more about his organization. He told me that the Canadian Honey Council helps beekeepers manage their stock and the commodities they produce, like honey, pollen, and honeycomb. Why? Over 13,000 beekeepers in Canada manage 810,000 bee colonies that make almost $300 million in honey. But that’s not all. Bees are essential to Canadian agriculture—they pollinate alfalfa, blueberries, and canola—to name just a few essential foods. (See this list from the Pollinator Partnership for all the other great foods that need bees.)
So the Canadian Honey Council has a pretty important job. They help commercial beekeepers through policy initiatives, advocacy, education, and even online training for apiary workers. They’re always looking for new and better ways to help. “Because of Project Hive Pet Company and The Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund’s efforts, now, we’re also working to establish beneficial habitat for bees.” Here’s a bit more of our Q&A.
Has the Canadian Honey Council worked to restore healthy habitat for bees in the past?
“No, the Canadian Honey Council has never done this before! Very few examples exist of this being done in a commercial (meaning rural) setting. Several advocacy organizations and educational programs help honeybee habitat in urban settings and assist urban beekeepers. We’re helping beekeepers in rural areas to assist commercial beekeepers. I should mention that there are programs out there that recommend specific flowers to plant, but they wouldn’t provide a seed mix. This is our first effort helping beekeepers actually plant healthy habitat.”
What are the biggest challenges for Canadian beekeepers?
“Certainly one of the biggest challenges (and why CHC would be involved) is nutrition for honeybees. As the climate is changing, Canadian commercial beekeepers are very reliant on canola. There are about 20 million acres of canola planted in this country. The majority of honey produced in Canada relies on canola, but it only flowers for 3.5 weeks. The idea of planting a honeybee nutrition area that has continual flowers from spring to fall is beneficial. The beekeepers won’t have to feed bees sugar syrups for an extended period of time; it alleviates weather concerns where crop failure could occur, and it provides bees with an array of nutrients instead of from one flower. So, the prime reason to provide a diverse nectar source for a longer period is to ease the economic burden for commercial beekeepers, but also provide health benefits to the bees.”
Canada is a big country–where and how will you start?
“When we evaluate sites, we want to make sure we can work with both the landowner/farmer and the beekeepers. The second consideration is how this may impact native bees, so we want to make sure we can be part of longer-term research initiatives.”
Do you have projects in mind?
“Yes, I have two locations confirmed already. The first location in Manitoba is ready, waiting, and we will plant this fall (probably late September). We are working with both the local beekeeper and the canola oil farmer, who has agreed to plant on his land. It’s also near the University of Manitoba, so it can benefit the students and professors there.
“The second pilot project will be at an agricultural test site just outside of Saskatoon. This is run in conjunction with the University of Saskatchewan, and the beekeeper is right next door. Both of these projects will plant healthy habitat on land that was unplanted. I have a lot more projects in mind. As Project Hive Pet Company grows and provides more funding for us, I think every beekeeper out there would love to have these projects nearby.”
What are your desired outcomes?
“First and foremost, we are hoping for improved bee health. We also think this program will help build resilience against climate change. But there might be a real hidden gem to come out of this, as we believe it will help native bees too! There isn’t much research on native bees; this may provide an opportunity to do that.”
Any final words of wisdom?
“We’re excited about partnering with Project Hive Pet Company. Initiating a project that highlights the needs of rural commercial beekeeping is unique. It has never been done in Canada before. By partnering with Project Hive, we are addressing a vital need and a sustainability plan that has long-term beneficial impacts.”
How does this partnership work?
Twice a year, we donate 1% of our top-line sales in Canada to the Canadian Honey Council, and that funds seed mixes for the projects that Rod identifies. We might just be as excited as Rod is about how we’re expanding our impact into Canada. Thank you, Rod, and the Canadian Honey Council, for this terrific partnership!
Where can Canadian residents find Project Hive Pet Company products?
Canadian residents can find us in Pet Valu, Ren’s Pets, and many other fabulous pet shops! Be sure to check out our store locator—though it’s still best to call or stop by in person with your furry friend!