COOKSTOWN, ONT. -- Beekeepers in Simcoe County are being given a financial boost from two levels of government.

The federal and provincial governments are helping the Ontario honey industry expand to protect bees and grow business by creating a targeted beekeeper intake to help support the industry and the health of honey bees.

"Bees are vital to our food system and agricultural sector. Canada's beekeepers need specialized tools to manage and enhance bee health," said Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

The funding will cover beekeeping equipment to prevent the introduction or spread of disease, increase the overwinter survival of bees, sampling and analysis for pests and disease, purchase domestically raised queen bees, and help beekeepers grow their businesses.

"It's great news. We have been struggling for the last 10 years with environmental problems, queen problems, pesticide issues so our losses are around 30%," said Peter Dickey, the master beekeeper at Dickey Bee Honey Inc., in Cookstown.

Some of the losses can be recovered now that there is funding to expand.

The government says commercial beekeepers can now receive up to $10,000 in cost-share funding and includes beekeepers with over 50 colonies.

The program will also provide cost-share funding of up to $3,500 for beekeepers with less than 50 colonies but more than 10.

The items that the government will fund include honey extraction equipment and activities related to COVID-19 recoveries, such as the development of websites for online sales.

Eligible beekeepers can apply for funding on June 21.