Bees and Canola: A Sweet Relationship

The link between the canola and honey industries is strong and growing. Simply put, canola is good for bees, and bees are good for canola. Together, they are good for the health of our ecosystem and our economy.

The Canola Council of Canada and the Canadian Honey Council are working together to maintain this mutually beneficial relationship.  As we foster communication and co-operation, both the canola and honey industries will continue to grow and thrive in Western Canada.

The Canola Council is also a partner in Bees Matter, an initiative to restate agriculture’s commitment to honey bees and bring knowledge to the Canadian public about how they can get involved and help honey bees thrive. Visit for a video and to learn about the Buzzing Gardens program that provides Canadians with free seeds to plant pollinator-friendly gardens.


Why bees love canola

Canola is an ideal habitat and food source for honeybees:

  • Canola flowers produce high amounts of nectar and this nectar has a good sugar profile for honey production.[1] The large amounts of pollen offer a good nutritional balance of amino acids, protein and fats.[2]
  • Plentiful canola blooms allow bees to feed efficiently, without covering large distances. Canola fields bloom for relatively long periods, so one field can provide bees with a good source of nectar for up to a month.
  • Canola honey is preferred by consumers. The light colour and mild flavour make canola honey a top choice in the marketplace.[3]

Why canola loves bees

Bees can have a positive impact on canola production. Pollinators are needed for production of quality hybrid seed – a vital component of the industry.

Research suggests pollination by bees may also:

  • Encourage higher yields
  • Promote more uniform flowering and earlier pod setting[4]
  • Increase the number of pods per plant and seeds per pod, as well as the seed weight[5]

Bee health in Western Canada

In the past decade, the number of honeybees in Canada has reached near-record levels (more than 722,000 colonies Canada-wide in 2015, up from 600,000 in 2000[6]). More than 70 per cent of these colonies are in Western Canada, where canola has become one of the most important crops.

The health of hives in Western Canada remains high as these two industries grow in close proximity. The overwhelming majority of beekeepers have reported no problems with canola production practices. Beekeepers seek out canola fields because they are such a good nectar/pollen source, and canola growers know it is in their own best interest to protect this mutually beneficial relationship.

How we promote bee-friendly practices

In cooperation with the Canadian Honey Council and the Honey Bee Health Coalition, the Canola Council is ensuring that canola production practices are compatible with pollinator health.

The Canola Council encourages farmers and aerial applicators to talk to nearby honey producers about pest management plans, and to avoid spraying insecticides when canola fields are in bloom and during peak foraging hours. Our agronomists are spreading the word through informative presentations, which have been well-attended by canola growers.

Learn more about how growers can protect bees.

Bees and Canola Fact Sheet (PDF)
Bees and Canola Fact Sheet - Growers and Beekeepers (PDF)


[1]  Kevan, P.G., Lee H., Shuel R.W. 1991. Sugar ratios in nectars of varieties of canola (Brassica napus). J Apic Res 30:99–102

Pernal S. F. and Currie, R. W. 1998. Nectar quality in open-pollinated, pol CMS hybrid, and dominant SI hybrid oilseed summer rape. Can. J. Plant Sci. 78: 79–89

[2]  Smith W (2002) Honey bees on canola. New South Wales Agriculture, Department of Primary Industries, Orange, New South Wales, Australia.

Somerville, DC. 2001. Nutritional Value of Bee Collected Pollens. RIRDC Publication No. 01/047, New South Wales Agriculture. ISBN 0 642 58269 6

Stace, P. 1996. Protein content and amino acid profiles of honey bee-collected pollens. Published by Bees ‘N Trees Consultants, Lismore NSW

[3]  Canadian Honey Council

[4]  Abrol, DP. 2007. Honeybees and rapeseed: A pollinator-plant interaction. Advances in Botanical Research. 45: 337-367

Sabbahi, R., de Oliveira, D., Marceau J. 2006. Does the Honeybee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) reduce the blooming period of canola? Agronomy & Crop Science 192, 233—237. 2006 Blackwell Verlag, Berlin ISSN 0931-2250

[5]  Durán X.A., Ulloa R.B., Carrillo J.A., Contreras J.L., and Bastidas M.T. Evaluation of Yield Component Traits of Honeybee-Pollinated (Apis mellifera L.) Rapeseed Canola (Brassica napus L.)  Chilean Journal of Agricultural Research 70(2): 309-314 (April-June 2010).

Sabbahi, R., de Oliveira D., and Marceau, J. 2005. Influence of honey bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) density on the production of canola (Crucifera: Brassicacae).  J. Econ. Entomol. 98, 367—372.

Steffan-Dewenter I (2003) Seed set of male-sterile and male-fertile oilseed rape (Brassica napus) in relation to pollinator density. Apidologie 34:227–235

[6]  Statistics Canada Cansim Table 001-007