Why would you want to put bees in the city?
Pollinator populations, including that of the honeybee are critically threatened around the world. These pollinators are responsible for 1/3 of food production globally. The dying off of honeybee populations could be of dire significance to global food production. In the last number of years, the population of Canada has become more concentrated in large urban centres and dropped drastically in rural areas. Many Canadians do not have a direct connection with food production or farming. This can lead us to lose sense of how fragile and intricate our food security and food production is. We hope that people will become more invested in protecting pollinators and understanding Canada’s food systems through these projects. Another reason that we want to have honeybees in the city is that they produce a premium local food product that is both healthful and delicious. Eating local helps support the local economy, lowers the carbon footprint of our food and builds a sense of pride and community.
Why should I care that the bees are dying?
Even if you do not like honey, or consume any bee products, you are reliant on honeybees and beekeepers to pollinate your fruits and vegetables, nuts and even some grains.
Why is urban beekeeping beneficial to the environment?
Many of the reasons for the decline in pollinator populations are caused by humans impact on the environment. By connecting with people here in the city, we can educate them on the various ways that we can address these issues and motivate them to implement policies or use their purchasing power to support these. Examples include lower chemical pesticide use and habitat loss. Also, honeybee hives located in your neighbourhood will pollinate local gardens and fruit trees as well as wild flowers, increasing food and seed production of these plants.
Are there enough flowers for the bees in the city?
The city landscape provides a diverse and sustained food source of various flowers throughout the summer. Honeybees will fly up to 2 miles from the hive in order to locate the most desirable nectar sources (i.e. flowers). This allows them to find food even when it is not evident at the hive that there are flowers blooming in the neighbourhood.
What are the benefits of having hives at our school?
Honeybees offer many fascinating connections with teaching goals and curriculum. Students will benefit from having a practical representation of principles they are learning about in a range of subjects. These include the sciences, the arts, health, teamwork and sustainability. As with any societal and environmental challenge, children become empowered and motivated to take on difficult challenges when confronted with them in a way they understand. Beeproject feels that through hands on learning activities, discussion and observation and by eating honey from their own hives, these projects will enrich students’ educational experience and understanding of food security, agriculture and teamwork.
What about stings?
Honeybees do have the ability to sting but are much more docile than people generally imagine. Honeybees die when they sting and therefore only sting when they feel that the hive is being threatened and they are protecting their hive and the queen. You’re only likely to ever get stung by a honeybee when entering a hive or standing directly in front of the hive, blocking the entrances.
My child has a bee allergy/ I’m still worried about stings.
Beeproject’s extra steps to try to minimize the already small risk that a person will get stung include placement of the hives, orientation of flight paths, use of smoker tool when opening/checking the hives, only opening hives on sunny days, and use of docile bee stock/genetics. Beeproject will select a low traffic area of the property to install hives. As discussed, bees only sting when they feel the hive or queen are threatened. Beeproject prefers rooftop placement in order to assure that curious community members are not approaching hives when not supervised. By orientating hives in certain directions and using natural barriers, it is possible to direct the flow of bees in and out of the hive to minimize their presence in areas of human traffic. A smoker is used to calm the bees when a beekeeper opens the hive. Smoke causes the bees to settle during hive checks, consuming honey and ignoring any disturbances to the hive during routine beekeeper work. As Beeproject puts the highest value on personal safety and comfort around the bees, we select bee stock known to be of a good nature (ie. calm and docile). As discussed, bee stings are very rare, especially considered to stings by the common wasp.
Will the bees bother people on patios or eating outside, like wasps do?
No, honeybees do not take an interest in human food, such as BBQ, slurpees, or poutine. Honeybees are vegetarian and rely exclusively on local vegetation whereas wasps are omnivorous and opportunistic. This means that wasps often gather at garbage cans or school entrances where food accumulates from students. The wasps are interested in both sugars and proteins that they find in these areas. Wasps, therefore, come into contact with people more often and do not die when they sting. This is the reason for so many negative experiences between people and wasps. Many of the organizations where Beeproject has kept hives in the past (for example, Assiniboine Park and The Forks) remark how they do not notice the honeybees around the property.
How much honey does each hive produce?
In Manitoba, the average honey yield per hive is approx. 160 lbs. This makes Manitoba and its neighbor, Saskatchewan, one of the best honey producing regions of the world. We do not expect averages nearly this high within the urban setting, but hives in Winnipeg have been known to average approx. 80 lbs, depending on the neighbourhood.
Where does the honey go?
The approximately 80 lbs of honey (per hive) produced at the school will be harvested and bottled by Beeproject in accordance with food regulations and returned to school staff for use in whatever way they have chosen. A harvest occurs twice during the season. Once in July and again in September. These times are all weather dependant.
For hives at schools, how involved will the students be with the hives?
Students will be involved as much or as little as staff and parents are comfortable with. School staff and students are not responsible for any of the tasks related to the beehives. Installation, maintenance and harvesting are all the responsibility of Beeproject staff. When bees are brought into the classrooms for discussion, they will be in a closed observation hive that have no entrances or exits.
What happens to the bees in the winter?
For winter, beehives will be removed from the roof of the school and wintered in a more sheltered area. The hives would be replaced the following spring.