News / Edmonton

'Hive of activity': Beekeeping courses at NAIT sell out as urban beekeeping causes a buzz

For the first time ever, the number of beehives in the province has doubled since 1987

Eliese Watson, founder of ABC Bees, has consistently had her beekeeping courses at MacEwan University sell out for the last three years.

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Eliese Watson, founder of ABC Bees, has consistently had her beekeeping courses at MacEwan University sell out for the last three years.

January seems like an unusual month to think about beekeeping — but according to Eliese Watson, founder of ABC Bees, there's never been a better time.

“In the winter months, this is when you need to be getting your equipment, assembling it, painting it, purchasing your bees, getting ready, because bees start being sold and distributed as early as March and April,” said Watson.

NAIT, partnered with Calgary’s ABC Bees, is offering a Level One Beekeeping course this weekend for the third year. Watson, who has been teaching these courses, says all three years have consistently sold out.

“The number of colonies in Alberta in 1987 was 147 thousand colonies, which isn’t very many,” she said. “As of 2017, they’ve actually, for the first time ever, doubled the number of beehives in the province.”

According to statistics from the 2017 Alberta Provincial Apiculturist Annual Report, there has been an increase of more than 200 new beekeepers in 2017. It is expected to grow this year.

Beekeeping within the city was against bylaws until April 2015. Now citizens are permitted under certain regulations, which includes taking these courses.

Dustin Bajer, co-chair of the Edmonton Food Council and a beekeeping enthusiast, teaches his own beekeeping courses and keeps his own bees in his backyard.

“(Beekeeping) is this interesting opportunity to tend a piece of nature in an urban environment,” he said.

“Having this literal hive of activity in the backyard, it’s almost like you can hear it, it’s almost like the sound of water. There’s something about hearing the sound of water in the background that seems like this sign of life. There’s something really satisfying and comforting about having a hive in the backyard.”

The Level One Beekeeping course at NAIT consists of a theory-based lesson for those who are beginners in beekeeping. Watson says she hopes to teach Level Two at NAIT in the summer, which will consist of more hands-on training.

The January classes are sold out, but NAIT is offering more Level One Beekeeping Courses on Feb. 10 and 11, as well as March 17 and 18 for the demand.

“There’s been a lot more institutions that have taken on beekeeping, NAIT being one,” Bajer said.

“It seems that in the last few years we’ve seen it move from individual backyard beekeepers to organizations or institutions getting on board as well. So it’ll be really interesting to see how beekeeping begins to evolve in the city.”

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