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Ukrainian student flees war, works to solve Canada’s honeybee shortage

A veterinary student, who fled her war-torn home of Kyiv, is now in Saskatoon hoping to help solve Canada’s honeybee shortage.

“I’m very grateful to be here and to work here,” Sofiia Markova tells CTV News.

Markova is studying honeybees in blueberry crops at the University of Saskatchewan, through the Mitacs Internship Program.

Blueberries need honeybees, but the insects are getting sick and dying during pollination.

Markova and a team of researchers want to find out what’s behind the deaths, by studying the bacteria responsible for European Foulbrood (EFB) disease.

EFB disease is believed to be a cause of bee colony loss.

“I’ve learned a lot and I wouldn’t have had this possibility in Ukraine, even before the war,” Markova says.

The goal of the research is to help beekeepers understand the disease and to prevent outbreaks.

Sarah Wood, an associate professor in the department of veterinary pathology, is overseeing the project — which is the first to study the bacteria using live larvae.

“We’re able to infect larvae in the lab with the bacteria and monitor the survival of the larvae over time,” Wood says.

“With this model we can understand how the bacteria grows in the gut of the larvae.”

Wood says Markova has been an asset to the project with her “positive and upbeat” attitude.

While the 22-year-old misses her family, who all stayed in Ukraine, she says she’s looking forward to a future in Canada and hopes to fulfill her master’s degree in Saskatchewan.

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