Photo by ASHLI BARRETT/Advocate Staff

Busy beekeepers go about their business

Urban beekeeping, which has been creating a buzz in Edmonton, is already taking off in Red Deer.

Urban beekeeping, which has been creating a buzz in Edmonton, is already taking off in Red Deer.

This city, like Calgary, has no local bylaws against keeping bees in the city, so an estimated 10 Red Deer residents already have backyard hives that produce honey.

If these activities have largely gone unnoticed, it’s because bees are already a part of our natural environment, and the Red Deer Beekeepers have also been doing a good job of controlling their bees, said the group’s chair, Charity Briere.

“Responsible beekeepers make regular inspections of their hives and they know what to look for. If the bees are getting crowded, you just add another box on top” to prevent swarming, said Briere.

Wild bees are also known to split from an overpopulated hive and fly around in a cluster looking for a new home.

When Blackfalds homeowners discovered thousands of bees in their house rafters in May, the Red Deer Beekeepers were called for assistance.

An innovative group member built his own “bee vac” to suction up the bees into a hive he later moved to his property.

Briere said municipalities officials have also occasionally asked the group to help deal with such bee dilemmas.

She likes the idea of fostering a co-operative relationship between municipalities and community beekeepers.

Edmonton is officially getting into backyard beekeeping by approving a pilot project for city residents this month.

Since Red Deer has no bylaw against beekeeping and the insects are already part of the great outdoors, Briere believes Red Deer City Council isn’t overly interested in taking an administrative response, which would cost time and money.

“It’s possible to peacefully co-exist with bees,” she stressed.

Although they are not aggressive insects — (“unlike wasps, bees have no interest in human food,” she said) — her group members’ bees were specially bred for docility by a B.C. breeder.

Briere recently tried to see how much she could bug a couple of her bees before they would sting her, and found it took several pokes to get just one sting.

Since bees generally die after using their stinger, she said they prefer to mind their business of pollination without engaging in a lot of human interaction. As a result of bees, fruit trees and vegetables gardens thrive.

Briere believes the residential gardens in her Parkvale neighbourhood are nicer and more productive, thanks to the hive in her yard. Among the long list of fruits and vegetables that depend on bee pollination are apples, raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes, turnips, cabbage, cucumbers, beets, broccoli, sunflowers and canola.

She got into urban beekeeping after attending a local educational workshop held by a Calgary beekeepers’ group. Briere was initially interested in backyard beekeeping for the same reason she grows vegetables and keeps a few laying hens.

“I’m really interested in food production for my family.”

Besides making honey, another benefit of bees is their activities are very educational for her and her children, Briere added.

The Red Deer Beekeepers have about 25 members, with some living in the rural area.

For more information about the group, please visit Red Deer Beekeepers on Facebook or email reddeer.bees@gmail.com.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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