Sierra De Buysscher-Nailor standing smiling at the camera in front of a bush

How honeybees are harmed by climate change

March 21, 2023
Author: Eric Zimmer

Sierra De Buysscher-Nailor shares her research.

Fourth-year VIU Geography honours student Sierra De Buysscher-Nailor has taken a special interest in understanding climate change.

An aspiring beekeeper, Sierra wants to develop a better understanding of the risks she will be facing in upcoming years as she starts her beekeeping journey. She is researching the impacts of climate change on the health and habitat of the western honeybee.

Using climate modelling data, Sierra is looking at how increasing temperatures will impact honeybees.

“I wanted to compare data from different areas across British Columbia to see how it might change from north to south and coast to interior," she adds.

Sierra decided to first analyze climate change projections based on a “business as regular” high greenhouse gas emissions scenario. This high-emissions scenario will then be compared to a low-emissions scenario. This will show the difference humans can make if we take the necessary steps to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

The best foraging temperature for the western honeybee is between 16°C and 30°C, explains Sierra. Temperatures above 30°C result in a decrease in foraging activity and an increase in water collection.

“I was able to identify how many projected days we will be experiencing above 30°C by the end of the century and I was surprised to see the difference between the two emissions scenarios; honeybees across British Columbia can expect an average of 30 days per year of reduced foraging activity by the end of the century under a high-emissions scenario, significantly more than the current average of 9 days per year."

Sierra hopes her research can be used as a framework for other beekeepers to develop mitigation strategies to protect their hives from climate change as well.

“On a personal level, this research project has provided me with important information that will shape the ways that I care for my honeybees in the event of further climate change,” she says.

Sierra wraps up her research – the final project of her undergraduate degree – this April. She has presented her findings at the Western Division of the Canadian Association of Geographers conference. She will also present at this year’s annual CREATE student research conference event at VIU.

“Mobilizing knowledge is something that I am passionate about, and I have taken many opportunities throughout my degree to do so. This research project is no different,” she says.

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