SURREY, B.C. — Chemistry professor Erika Plettner gestures towards beehives surrounded by tall, dry grasses as she explains the multiple pressures facing honeybees worldwide.
Pesticides, pathogens and the effects of climate change are putting bees and their role as pollinators of the world’s food crops in peril, she says.
So Plettner and her team of researchers are working towards mitigating one tiny yet deadly risk factor — the varroa mite.
The team at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland is testing a chemical compound that appears to kill the mites without harming the bees, in hopes it could one day be widely available as a treatment for infested hives.
Varroa mites kill bees by puncturing their cuticle, or exoskeleton, creating a wound that doesn’t close, Plettner said.
That leaves an opening for disease and weakens bees’ immune systems, she said in an interview at the researchers’ experimental apiary outside Surrey, B.C.
“That’s what then ultimately makes (the bees) collapse during wintering,” she said.
Plettner and her team are testing the safety and efficacy of the compound identified in her lab some years ago, which appears to paralyze and then kill the mites.
The bees involved in the experiment fly in and out of their hives as Plettner explains that the researchers don’t yet understand exactly how the compound works.
“We don’t know the actual protein in the mite to which the compound binds, or a collection of proteins. We know that paralysis usually involves the nervous system of the mite,” she said.
Her team recently obtained funding from Genome British Columbia, a non-profit organization, to work with researchers at the University of British Columbia to investigate how the compound affects the mites, she added.
The researchers place a sheet of sticky paper beneath the hives to collect the dead mites for analysis in their lab, she said.
So far, the chemical compound looks promising as a potential treatment alongside five or six others currently available, Plettner said.
It’s important to rotate through different treatments from year to year, she said, because the mites are starting to show resistance to what she called the “gold standard” of existing treatments.
The varroa mite originally parasitized honeybees in Asia before spreading to Afro-European honeybee populations about 100 years ago, she said.
“In terms of evolutionary time, this is relatively short. And that’s why our bees are so affected by this, because … in an evolutionary sense, they haven’t had a chance to develop, through selection, natural defences.”
Efforts are underway to find bees that are more naturally resistant to the mites, said Plettner, noting one of her own hives at her home has had no mites this summer, while the neighbouring hive was “boiling over” with the pests.
“Every once in a while, you get a hive that is quite resistant to the mite, and this is a subject of very intensive research and bee breeding efforts.”
It will take some years to commercialize the compound, making it available as a treatment, Plettner said.
The researchers still need to understand how it works and demonstrate that it’s safe for bees, beekeepers and the surrounding environment, she said.
It’s especially important to mitigate varroa mite infestations given the range of environmental pressures bees are facing, Plettner said.
Climate change is affecting the ecology of honeybee habitat, changing the availability of the flowers and plants they need to survive, she said.
Moreover, bees are part of a system of intensive agricultural practices that employ pesticides and herbicides across Canada and worldwide, she said.
“Even if near the apiary is not sprayed, bees will fly quite far, up to two kilometres, to seek flowering plants and food,” she said. “So they can get accidentally contaminated with substances that are harmful.”
At the same time, many plants that are considered weeds and targeted with herbicide by agricultural operators are important for bees, Plettner said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 4, 2022.
Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press
Rookie goalie Jaxson Stauber in form as Blackhawks dump Flames 5-1
By Darren Haynes in Calgary
Rookie goaltender Jaxson Stauber made it two wins in as many career starts by making 34 stops on Thursday to help the Chicago Blackhawks to a 5-1 victory over the Calgary Flames.
Taylor Raddysh, Boris Katchouk, Jason Dickinson, Sam Lafferty and Connor Murphy, into an empty net, scored for Chicago (15-28-4), which entered the game last in the NHL’s overall standings. Max Domi had an assist to extend his point streak to four games (one goal, three assists).
Jonathan Huberdeau scored for Calgary (23-17-9). The Flames sit outside of a playoff spot in the Western Conference after last season finishing atop the Pacific Division.
Markstrom had 24 stops for the Flames. Winless in his last four decisions (0-3-1), his record fell to 13-13-5. That’s 10 times this season Markstrom has received one or no goals for support.
With Alex Stalock (concussion) out, Stauber made his NHL debut on Saturday in a 5-3 win in St. Louis.
The undrafted 23-year-old is in his first pro season after signing as a free agent last March after playing the previous two years with Providence College. He began the season with AHL Rockford.
Tied 1-1 after 20 minutes, Chicago seized control in the second period with three unanswered goals.
At 9:39, Katchouk one-timed a pass from Luke Philp past Markstrom, who was screened.
Chicago made it a two-goal lead at 15:37 when both Flames defencemen Nikita Zadorov and MacKenzie Weeger went to Patrick Kane, leaving the middle of the ice open. Kane’s pass sent Dickenson in alone and he beat Markstrom over his shoulder.
Just 30 seconds later, another defensive miscue from the Flames resulted in a two-on-one rush with Colin Blackwell setting up Lafferty for his eighth goal of the season.
The Flames outshot the visitors 18-6 in the third period, but couldn’t beat Stauber. The scattered booing from disgruntled fans throughout the stanza was at its loudest at the final buzzer as Calgary players left the ice.
In a listless first period from the home side, Chicago scored first at 17:47 when Raddysh beat Markstrom under his arm.
The Flames would tie it in the final minute. Huberdeau took a pass from Kadri and made a slick move to tuck the puck behind Stauber.
TOEWS AND TANEV OUT
Both teams were without key players. Calgary defenceman Chris Tanev (upper body) was out. His spot was taken by Connor Mackey, a healthy scratch the last 16 games.
Chicago was without captain Jonathan Toews (non-COVID illness). Philp was inserted into the lineup and recorded his first NHL point.
MILESTONE FOR TOFFOLI
Tyler Toffoli played in the 700th game of his career. He has played 86 games for the Flames.
Toffoli has also played for Los Angeles (515), Vancouver (10) and Montreal (89).
Blackhawks: Wrap up a three-game road trip on Saturday in Edmonton.
Flames: Are back in action Friday night in Seattle.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2023.
Premier Danielle Smith sent this letter to PM Justin Trudeau today
An alternative to Just Transition: Premier Smith
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith invites Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to work with her to develop “Sustainable Jobs” legislation as an alternative to the proposed “Just Transition” legislation.
Dear Prime Minister:
I am writing to once again raise Alberta’s serious concerns with the proposed federal ‘Just Transition’ legislation. The world needs more Canadian energy, not less. It would be premature and ill-advised to signal the end of a vibrant, thriving industry that has the ability to reduce Canada’s and the world’s emissions through technological innovation and increased exports of LNG and other clean burning fuels the world so desperately needs. It is also critical to the security of our nation and allies to lessen dependence on fuel sources from unstable, undemocratic and dangerous countries with atrocious environmental records.
Simply put, the world needs more Canadian energy and technology, not less, and as the owner of the world’s third largest oil and gas reserves and the most advanced environmental technology on the planet – we need to signal our intention to provide substantially more of both.
According to your government’s own predictions, the federal Just Transition initiative alone will risk a full 25 percent of Alberta’s economy and 187,000 jobs in Alberta, while also causing major disruptions and displacement to 13.5 percent of Canada’s workforce. At a time when Canadians are struggling to afford basic services and goods, Canada’s oil and gas sector offers some of the highest wages in Canada, which translates to strong business and community support across the country. Signalling a move away from these types of high paying jobs, threatens the national economy, and the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of workers across the country at a time when good jobs are needed the most. It also creates a chilling effect on investors considering large scale investments in the Alberta and Canadian energy sector.
Prime Minister, we are at a crossroads in Alberta’s relationship with the Federal Government. We can continue with the endless court challenges, legislation to protect jurisdictional rights and inflammatory media coverage over our disagreements, or, as is my strong preference, Alberta and Ottawa can work in partnership on a plan that will signal to all Canadians and investors from around the world that our governments have cooperatively designed a series of incentives and initiatives intended to achieve the following objectives:
- Substantially decreasing Canada’s and Alberta’s net emissions;
- Accelerating private and public investment in projects and infrastructure that utilize and develop Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS), Bitumen Beyond Combustion, Geothermal technology, petrochemicals, hydrogen, lithium, helium, zero-emissions vehicles and nuclear technologies;
- Attracting and growing a larger skilled workforce to fill positions in both the conventional energy sector as well as emerging industries using the technologies cited above; and
- Significantly, and through the lens of global emissions reduction, increasing the export of LNG and other responsibly developed conventional oil and natural gas resources to Europe, Asia and the United States.
Prime Minister, all of the above objectives need to be clearly articulated and integrated into any Federal legislation or policies your government seeks to implement in the coming months, or that legislation will face irrepressible opposition from Alberta. I genuinely do not want to see that happen.
Further, this proposed legislation must be developed through cooperative discussions with affected provinces – namely Alberta. I would therefore invite you to meet with me in February on this matter, after which I would propose we have our appropriate ministers and officials meet repeatedly in the coming months with the goal of coming to a joint agreement on the key items to be included in your contemplated legislation so that it can be introduced and passed by the end of Spring.
Further, I request that you take to heart, and acknowledge publicly, the following items, in an extension of good faith to Albertans:
- Immediately drop the verbiage of “Just Transition”. Accordingly, rename the “Just Transition Act” to the “Sustainable Jobs Act”;
- Vow that all provisions of any forthcoming legislation will be designed to incentivize investment and job growth in both the conventional energy sector as well as in emerging industries utilizing Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS), Bitumen Beyond Combustion, petrochemicals, hydrogen, lithium, helium, geothermal, zero-emissions vehicle and nuclear technologies;
- Demonstrate that no provision of the Act will be designed to phase out or reduce Alberta’s conventional oil and natural gas sector and workforce (as we are already experiencing a workforce shortage in this sector);
- Commit your Government to actively partnering with Alberta to expand LNG exports to Asia and Europe as part of our nation’s overall emissions reduction strategy; and
- Promise that you and your Government will work with Alberta in partnership to set reasonable and meaningful emissions reductions targets and will not unilaterally impose such targets on Alberta’s energy, agriculture and other industrial sectors on a go forward basis.
Investments by Alberta’s oil and natural gas industry are driving the creation of the very clean technologies needed to bring emissions down both in Canada and around the world. Oil and natural gas companies representing the majority of production in Canada are investing $24 billion on projects to help reduce annual GHG emissions from operations by 22 million tonnes by 2030, and have committed to emission neutrality by 2050. Putting an end to or hampering this important work, and continued tepid support for increased LNG export, is the best way for your government to fail in its goal of reducing our nation’s and the world’s emissions. It would be the ultimate example of scoring on our own net.
The Alberta energy sector has grown and thrived through innovation, providing good paying jobs for thousands and contributing billions of dollars in tax revenue for all levels of government. They will continue to evolve and adapt to new technologies in search of new low to zero-emitting fuel sources like hydrogen and provide new, high-paying skilled jobs for decades to come. It is essential that the federal government stands shoulder to shoulder with Alberta to reduce emissions and continue to develop our oil and natural gas and future energy sources responsibly, while also positioning Canada as the optimal solution to global energy needs and security.
Prime Minister, we can and must work together. Operating in political silos, as adversaries on this issue, is getting us nowhere, and I believe all Canadians are tired of seeing it. Canada should be the world’s greatest energy superpower. It can be, if we come together collaboratively in pursuit of that objective. There is no limit to our nation’s potential.
Let’s turn the page starting with a meeting between us next month followed by a dedicated effort to craft “Sustainable Jobs” legislation that a vast majority of Albertans and Canadians will welcome and support. The consequences of missing this opportunity will be dire for the Canadian and Alberta economies, workforce and environment.
I look forward to your prompt reply.
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