Friday, 15 May 2015

Update! What's The Buzzz - Back Yard Bees is a great website to use as a resource.  The video is a great education resource for children and we can learn about what flowers to plant in our gardens to attract and support bees too!  Everything is here.  Check it out:

Over the past decade, there has been much buzz (pardon the pun) about various forms of urban agriculture.   While we baby boomers were raised in homes that recognized the economic value and health benefits of growing our own food, somehow, many of us chose not to pass those values on to our children.  Thankfully, many of our children ignored our actions and have embraced what we left behind.  With the resurgence of urban farming, we have not only watched growing our own food rise to new heights on the urban landscape; we have witnessed the return of small farms supplying chemical free fruits and vegetables and  meat and grass fed meat and dairy products raised without the aid of antibiotics. This increased interest in feeding ourselves has affected the learning curve of not only private entrepreneurs but governments which struggle to find the balance between encouraging its community to be independent and resourceful, while ensuring nuisance factors that often accompany the keeping of livestock in urban communities. 

You'll recall, for the past few years, there was a great deal of flap about urban chickens.  If you want to learn more about keeping urban chickens, check out, and the list of resources included.

Personally, I applaud our renewed desire to reconnect with nature and help feed ourselves.  I find it a wee bit sad when I travel to discover that, unlike many Canadians and Americans, many countries never lost it.    For the past decade, I've watched with growing interest the trend toward urban beekeeping.  Because of a worldwide concern that bees are dying, and their necessity for pollination and food production, bees are being embraced at all levels of both governments and the general public.  

 If beekeeping is something that you are considering investing in, the first step is to educate yourself. Knowledge is power, right?  There is a plethora of information available today that will help you determine whether you have an appropriate location and environment for your hive(s) and prepare you for the work involved -- it's not all bees and honey, you know. Bees, like any other living species, are not generic; they come in many strains with various attributes.  Some are better producers, while others are much gentler.  I for one, would not want to begin such an endeavour with several thousand mean bees. As if maintaining the hives and harvesting the honey isn't enough to contend with, you  have to be prepared for swarming because, inevitably, bees swarm and not everyone in your neighbourhood will welcome your bees in their yard. While swarming may not be something to relish, it is also a positive sign that your bees are healthy and strong.  One way to reduce this is by ensuring your hive is maintained by a young queen.  

While there is a lot of to be learned by the internet, check out what courses might be available in your area.  Find a  local beekeeping association or club.  In Alberta, there are a few options in and around Edmonton; there are also groups in Red Deer and Calgary.  If at all possible, find a beekeeper to shadow for a year or so before you set up your own hive(s). Most beekeepers are happy to share their knowledge.
 Popular trends is why rules are crafted and municipalities are now finding themselves behind the 8-ball.  First, it never occurred to most urban planners and development officers that rules for beekeeping was something their municipality would require.  Second, I'm pretty sure urban agriculture wasn't high on the list of things to teach when they were studying their profession.  Fortunately, planners are creative and resourceful; while they may not have the answer to every question, they usually have a few tricks up the proverbial sleeve to find an answer and modify it to meet the current need.  After all, that's what planning is, right?  Land use planning is not static, but rather, fluid and ever changing.  If you are a planner, and change isn't part of your repertoire, chances are, you are not meeting the needs of your community.

And it's not just municipalities; most provinces and states carry provincial legislation; in Alberta, beekeeping falls under the auspices of the Alberta Animal Act, the Bee Act and Bee Regulation (links below).  So before you start crafting policy or run out and purchase hive(s), bees and all the gear you need to begin your beekeeping adventure, you need to check local municipal and provincial/state regulations and bylaws.. There, you will find out whether you can keep bees in your backyard and determine whether you can easily meet the qualifying prerequisites.    

Common rules for hive placement include maintaining hives a safe distance from neighbouring homes and public spaces, such as sidewalks, streets and parks (often about 4.5 - 6 metres (15-20'); ensuring hives are not in public view; written permission from your landlord, if you are not a property owner; permission or notification of nearby neighbours, and proper liability insurance. While we're on the subject of neighbours, it's not just about what might actually constitute a nuisance, it's also about what might be perceived as a nuisance.  Let's face it, most of us do not relish the idea of being stung by a bee and many of us react to a bee stings that could be anything from a slight howl of pain to anaphylactic shock and life threatening.  The key to success will be establishing and maintaining good neighbour relations.  On the bright side, if you happen to be a neighbour of an urban beekeeper, you may just find yourself tapped into a golden pipeline of fresh honey.

Once you've armed yourself with information, the next step is to commit to your newfound interest.  It's not just the monetary resources, it's the time and effort that will be invested to start your hive(s) and properly care for your bees. Remember the old saying, everything worthwhile takes time and effort?  Beekeeping is just like that!  Now go forth and find your pot of gold.