Honeybees are moving in next door.
The unexpected neighbours have been invited to stay by Mount Royal University history major Eliese Watson. An urban beekeeper, Watson is teaching Calgarians about the benefits of having these little workers in the city.
“The main issue about urban bee keeping is ignorance,” said Watson. Unlike carnivorous wasps, honeybees are docile pollinators who would rather work then sting, she said.
With help from a $5,000 grant from the Co-operators, Watson has founded Apiaries and Bees for Communities (ABC). Through workshops and events, she teaches Calgarians how to keep bees in their own Top-Bar hive.
About nine households in Calgary are paying Watson a “commitment fee” of $1 for her to use their yards for her hives. “It’s an agreement, so we both know that we will care for (the bees).”
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Waston’s hives will start producing honey this season, although she will wait until next year to start selling her harvest. Until then, she will give samples and tastings through events with the Community Garden Association.
Although Calgary has a bylaw against city livestock, beekeeping is legal by omission, said City of Calgary spokesperson Denis Urquhart. Furthermore, “there has never been a big problem with public complaints,” he said.
As the vice president of sustainable MRU, Watson is quick to point out the multiple benefits having a beehive in the neighbourhood gives. “For example, instead of producing only a few raspberries this season, you’ll have buckets.”
Bees are indicators of environmental health, she claims.
“There are no more wild honeybees here,” said Watson. “That’s a clear indication of the impact of pesticides and other chemicals.”
If a city is without bees, it’s without life, said Watson. She intends to continue building a community of beekeepers to ensure Calgary will never go without. Through workshops and events, she uses her hands on teaching approach to spread her message.
“Honeybees don’t come out on windy or rainy days. They come out with the sun, they’re really special little creatures.