A Sexsmith-area beekeeper welcomes the federal and provincial governments' expansion of the Alberta Beekeeper Stock Replacement Program.

Beekeepers can now apply to the Canadian Agricultural Partnership program for financial support of colony replacement and queen bee purchases, according to Alberta Agriculture.

“I'm really pleased to hear the government has extended the stock replacement program to include queens,” said Bill Termeer, local beekeeper and Alberta Beekeepers Commission board member.

Under the program expansion, beekeepers can apply for funding for 30 per cent of the cost of buying a new queen bee, up to $15 per queen.

He said a queen can cost between $40 and $45, so a beekeeper could get between $12 and $15 under the program.

Termeer recently purchased 2,000 queens, an acquisition that he said would qualify for the program cap of $20,000 per beekeeper.

The change is also retroactive, covering queen purchases between April 1 and Sept. 20, according to Alberta Agriculture.

Termeer said many factors have played into a loss of colonies, with substantial loss last winter.

He said he and many other beekeepers experienced a poor summer with significant rainfall in 2019, and mites perennially pose challenges.

Overall, he lost 2,019 colonies and 2,538 survived to the end of April 2020.

According to the provincial government, Alberta is Canada's largest honey producer, generating 18.6 million kilograms of honey annually and contributing $67 million to the economy.

“The Peace Country has the reputation of having some of the finest honey in the world - it's a very nice, light honey, often sought after,” Termeer said.

The $1-million beekeeper replacement program expansion comes as part of Alberta's recovery plan in the wake of COVID-19.

Online applications close Jan. 29, 2021.