Picture of a researcher's hands using tweezers to pickup a bee from a bee frame and placed it into a collection tube.

Frequently Asked Questions by Study Participants

What problem is The Canadian Bee Gut Project trying to solve?

More honeybee colonies are dying than can be produced each year. Since honeybee loss jeopardizes food security of pollination-dependent crops, it is important to increase the overall health of honeybees. Our team understands the importance of the honeybee gut microbiome; a broad range of microbes that can improve and maintain health in many ways. For examples microbes help with bee digestion, detoxification and infection-resistance! In order to ensure bee-microbial health is optimal, our team is looking to explore the specifics of these bee-microbe interactions, how they effect each other, and what can be done to fix honeybee colonies that have poor microbiome health.

How will my bee-data help?

The microbiome data provided by your bee samples, and other producer’s bees from across Canada, will provide us the data needed to create a healthy baseline microbiome model of the honeybee under real world conditions. This data and the resulting baseline microbiomes will allow for more consistent honeybee microbiome research in the future as well as help to find therapeutic solutions geared towards restoring disrupted honeybee microbiomes and improving honeybee health.

What am I expected to do if I participate?

Participation within this study is not expected to be time or material-intensive. Throughout the study, we expect that participants will take part in a few quick online questionnaires, as well as personally collect bee samples within their beeyards a maximum of two times a year, specifically during late fall and early spring. Sample collection details and instructions will be given to participants ahead of time, but consists of collecting a few nurse bees from several different colonies and sending them to the University of Guelph through the mail service.

How long will the study last?

We expect each participant to be involved with the study for at least one or more sampling cycles (fall + spring timepoints over one season), to allow the consecutive tracking of microbes from the same hives over time. Ideally, we aim to collect samples in two consecutive years to account for and also integrate seasonal confounders. Between sample collections, participants will not have to devote much time to the study and will be contacted less frequently.

How do I know if the study is right for me?

Before officially inviting you to join our study, we will be sending out a description of the purpose and protocols of the study to our participants. Additionally, a short questionnaire will be provided to participants to determine if your honeybee management practices and other factors fit within the parameters of our study.

What should I do if I change my mind about participating?

Participation in The Canadian Bee Gut Project is completely voluntary, and therefore participants can withdraw at any time if they wish to do so. If this is the case, please contact a member of our team as soon as possible.

How much privacy can you expect as a participant in the study? What happens to my data?

The research team is dedicated to providing the highest degree of confidentiality. Your personal identity will never be revealed and the data derived from your samples will never been shared without prior de-identification. Following study completion, the anonymized bee-specific data we collect will be shared on a nationwide data scientific mapping catalogue for the honeybee metagenome, made freely accessible and interpretable. Additionally, anonymized bee-specific data from the study may be used within scientific papers and presentations by The Canadian Bee Gut Project. Whether considering database or scientific publication purposes, the data will be presented in such a way that it cannot be tied back to any specific individual.

Beyond protecting the confidentiality of participants, this approach will allow for accelerated scientific development of microbial therapeutic strategies and help to guide informed decision making (at both provincial and national levels) without interfering with current regulatory policies.

How will my personal information be protected?

Personal information of participants will be stored on a password protected and encrypted server, and will not be accessed or shared with anyone outside of the Canadian Bee Gut Project team. Personal information of participants will also not be included in any content (papers or otherwise) that the Canadian Bee Gut Project produces.

Are there any risks involved with participating in The Canadian Bee Gut Project?

Although risks to producers and beekeepers are unlikely and minimal, any and all risks associated with partaking in the study will be provided and explained clearly to participants before the study starts. You will always be aware of the entire study protocol and can always choose to stop your participation at any time.

Is there any compensation offered to individuals who participate in The Canadian Bee Gut Project?

All costs associated with mailing bee samples will be covered by The Canadian Bee Gut Project. In addition, participants will gain knowledge on the microbiome profiles of their bees.

Does participation cost anything?

Participating with The Canadian Bee Gut Project does not have any monetary cost to participants. All required materials for sample collection will be mailed to you, and cost of mailing samples back our lab will be covered.

How often will I be contacted?

We expect to make contact primarily through email; we know that our study participant’s time is valuable, so we will try to limit contact as much as possible.

Will I be informed of my personal data/results at the end of the study?

Yes! In exchange for participating in the study, you will receive a personalized readout of the specific microbial communities found in your bee samples, a comparative analysis highlighting the similarities/differences to other bee samples across Canada, and a list of unique species present that could be related to colony-level health outcomes. All results are confidential and your information will never be shared publicly or to authorities without prior de-identification.

How is The Canadian Bee Gut Project funded?

The Canadian Bee Gut Project was awarded a research grant from the Food From Thought (FfT) 2022-25 Thematic III Research Fund. FfT is funded in part by the Canada First Research Excellence Fund. To learn more about FfT and the program’s objective, click here.