‘We’re really pleased:’ Edmonton a hive of activity for beekeepers
But some say the city could make it easier for them to operate.
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Two years after the city started allowing backyard bees, the program is buzzing more than ever — this summer there are 130 amateur beekeepers tending hives within city limits.
According to Keith Scott, co-ordinator of animal control, that's up from 80 last year.
“When we did the pilot project, we only had three,” he said. “So we’ve seen a lot more.”
Now as Edmonton becomes an increasingly bee-friendly city, some local beekeepers say it's time the city started evolving their rules to keep up with growth.
“It’s been pretty positive, but there are a couple of things the city may want to keep in mind,” said Dustin Bajer, a beekeeper and educator in Edmonton.
For one, some beekeepers are now asking to be allowed to have more than the one hive currently permitted — a restriction designed to prevent swarming.
But Bajer explained it’s better to have two hives because it helps new beekeepers spot issues.
“It’s not twice as much work and the odds of having issues goes down,” he said.
For example, they can compare the hives to see if one colony is dwindling in numbers. If it is, they can quickly act to make it healthy again by giving the bees more honey or pollen, or a queen larvae if it becomes queenless.
But Scott said the city isn't looking to grow the program quite yet.
Beekeepers are currently allowed one “nook” to complement the hive, he said. The nook can be used to as a second home for bees if a colony outgrows the hive. They can also be used to raise a queen if the hive becomes queenless.
But if the nook becomes too big, Edmontonans should call in rural beekeepers to take the buzzers off their hands, Scott added.
“We’re certainly growing the program, but we have to be really careful,” Scott said. “Having more than enough bees in high-density neighbourhoods could lead to a recipe for disaster.”
Bajer also said some beekeepers eventually want to be able to sell the honey their bees produce, a big no-no under current rules because it would require a business licence.
“I don’t see why the city would want to discourage it as a business,” he said.
But Scott explained the goal of the program was for people looking to beautify their gardens.
“It’s not meant to be a small business program,” he said. “I don’t see us going in that direction.”
However, he said Edmonton is open to improving the program in the future if needed.
“We’d hate for all kinds of issues to arise,” he said. “So, let’s get it stable. We’re really pleased with how it’s gone so far.”
The flavours of Edmonton: Honey notes by community
Not all honey from Edmonton tastes the same. In fact, many of our neighbourhoods produce their own distinct flavours depending on what plants are available to bees. Sommelier and writer Mel Priestley has made it a mission to taste honey from every part of Edmonton. This is her breakdown:
McCauley East – Sunflower Musk
“Rich golden colour with a musky aroma of sunflower pollen and animal fur.”
Ermineskin – Tree Trimmer
“A pale lemonade colour and a whiff of fresh flowers give way to a veritable mountain of grassy flavours.”
Capilano – Herbal Tea
“Reserved aroma, medium straw colour and a demure but elegant palate of fresh liquorice root tea.”
Forest Heights – Apple Blossom
“Lovely flavours of flowering trees – apples and pears – and a whiff of beeswax.”
Westmount – Summer Fruit
“Medium straw colour and a quiet nose gives way to zingy flavours of crisp apple, berry skin and just a hint of citrus.”
Kilkenny - Candlemaker
“Pale yellow, redolent of freshly rolled beeswax candles. A hint of baking spices and cinnamon.”
Fulton Place – Grandma’s House
“It’s the colour of toasty pie crust and it smells like it too, but the palate is all floral perfume.”
McCauley West– Rose Petal
“Medium yellow with a hint of earthy, green aromas that give way to a wallop of flowery, rose petal flavours.”