Apiaries and Bees for Communities (ABC) from Calgary is proposing a collaboration with the Edmonton Beekeepers’ Association (EDBA) to participate in a small-scale pilot project with the City of Edmonton to explore the benefits and challenges of bylaw-supported urban beekeeping.
Beekeepers are well aware that pollinating insects, such as bees, are vitally important to the life cycle of most horticultural plants and agricultural crops. Urban beekeeping is in many ways a story about the move towards local agriculture, sustainable practices and stewardship for the environment within an urban environment; helping urbanites reconnect with nature.
Urban beekeeping has been legalized in cities dealing with massive population densities, like New York City, Vancouver, Calgary, Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles counties, with an insignificant amount of bee / human conflict. The purpose of these cities in moving forward with legalization and regulation of beekeeping in their municipalities were to:
- encourage an image of “green” and supporting the local food economy
- empowering the government in a position of regulation to a growing community of hobbyists to ensure the public and animals safety
- to support and protect honeybees.
Many communities have passed by-laws legalizing and regulating urban beekeeping. The challenges lay in implementing regulations and encouraging civil engagement in the education around honeybee health, ethical care practices, and public awareness of honeybee behaviour. lifecycles.
A.B.C: Apiaries and Bees for Communities (A.B.C) is a Calgary based urban beekeeping initiative with programming offered across Alberta. Starting up in 2010, A.B.C is focused on developing educational and mentorship opportunities for urbanites to get engaged in beekeeping practices including teaching 200+ new beekeepers, selling out over 40 unique programs, as well as collaborating with organizations like the Calgary Zoo, Telus SPARK!, and Mount Royal University. In their five years of development, A. B. C. has participated in the development of urban beekeeping programming in Calgary, Cochrane, Red Deer, Portland, Boulder, Massachusetts, New York City, and Los Angeles. In Alberta, A.B.C has brought over 300 colonies of bees to the province for new beekeepers from Sweetacre Apairies and Tony Lalonde Apiary and is eager to see sustainable beekeeping practices permeate from the heart of urban centers. A.B.C recognizes the challenges municipalities face in developing eco-friendly communities with the inclusion of honeybees and balancing the necessary risk mitigation and enforcement of their integration to the urban space. For more information on the organization and their programming, go to www.backyardbees.ca.
This proposal will describe the pilot project, the nature of the proposed collaboration between A.B.C and the EDBA, as well as anticipated challenges and benefits of the pilot program.
Section 1: Pilot Project Parameters
- Site Selection
- Public outreach and awareness campaign
- Survey creation, application, and outcomes
- Public education and inquiry sessions
Section 2: The Proposed Role of the EDBA in the Pilot
- Role of the EDBA
- Honeybees and equipment
- Mentorship programs
- Participation in inspection report program and inquiry sessions
- Role of A.B.C.
- Insurance coverage for beekeepers on site
- Educational resources and inquiry session support
- A.B.C.’s Community Hive Programs
- Swarm Catchers Group
- Application and exam process to receive honeybees
- Online discussion board
Section 3: Anticipated challenges
- Safety and liability
- Removal of honeybee swarms
- Removal of hives from pilot locations on short notice
Section 4: Anticipated benefits
- Food security
- Leadership in policy creation
- Increased yield in urban food crops
1) Pilot Project Parameters
The purpose of this small-scale pilot project would be to work with the City of Edmonton to explore the benefits and challenges of bylaw-supported urban beekeeping throughout the 2014 beekeeping season.
The project, managed by a volunteer project coordinator who will be identified in consultation between the EDBA and A.B.C., would include six City of Edmonton-sanctioned sites, with no more than two beehives at each location (all beehives will be registered with Alberta Agriculture prior to June 1, 2014). The sites would include:
- 2 public locations which may include city parks, the Muttart Conservatory, or the Bennett Centre. These beehives would be put in place to allow for beekeeping education and mentorship of other potential beekeepers.
- 2 commercial locations on building roofs or in commercial areas
- 2 residential locations
Prior to the beginning of the pilot project, the community league for each site will be contacted to arrange for an information session for its members. Additional information will also be available as documents that can be emailed to community league members.
Each pilot location would be cared for by two identified beekeepers plus an experienced mentor from the EDBA or A.B.C.. The hives would have a minimum 10-day inspection rotation to ensure hive health and swarm suppression. Participating beekeepers will be required to have completed at least one beekeeping course (e.g., the Bee-ginners Beekeeping Course from Alberta Apiculture or the Level One Beekeeping Certificate from A.B.C). Each beekeeper will use standardized and automated reporting tools created by A.B.C. (including a smart phone app) to record key metrics about each hive through each inspection, which can be compiled for the final report on the pilot project. All hives will be leased and registered by A.B.C. to be covered under their 5 million dollar liability insurance policy but the proceeds of the hive (wax, honey, equipment, bees) will be owned by the beekeeper.
Each location will distribute an information package to all commercial or residential neighbors in a two-block radius that will include details on the site and information about bees and beekeeping. It would also include contact information for the program coordinator if there are any concerns.
The two public locations would require the installation of a protective enclosure (potentially as shown below), which would need to be finalized with the host location and disassembled if the pilot was halted for any reason. The public locations would have access to 10 extra beekeeping suits (3 children, 7 adult) to allow for community participation in the inspections.
Following the pilot project’s completion in Fall 2014, an online survey will collect feedback from each participating community league as well as to the local community who initially received the information packages. The goal of the survey would be to measure the perceived intrusiveness of the bees in the Edmonton urban environment, and see if our educational and informational targets need to be improved. Examples of questions that will be included on the survey include:
- Were you aware that there was a honeybee pilot in your neighbourhood?
- Did you notice an increase in honey bees in your yard or area this year?
- Were you or anyone in your family stung this year by a bee that left its stinger behind?
- Did you see any swarms of bees?
- Are you supportive of urban beekeeping given that the pilot has run through the summer?
A final report will be created using the survey data, metrics collected from each hive, and feedback from site participants, beekeepers, and community members.
2) Proposed EDBA + A.B.C Collaboration
As the main beekeeping organization in Edmonton, the pilot project depends on the EDBA’s endorsement and participation.
The EDBA’s participation would involve the following:
- Providing an experienced mentor, to be available when needed, to the beekeepers for each site of the pilot project. Their role would be to support appropriate hive management.
- Each participating beekeeper would supply honeybees and associated equipment to the project, ensuring that there was very little cost to EDBA, the city and the host locations.
- Assisting with determining a suitable location for the hives
- Assisting with preventing swarming and/or dealing with any swarms that may occur
- Providing guidance for appropriate disease and pest management procedures
- Aiding with reinforcing community confidence in the safety of beekeeping activities by participating in the community league information sessions
- Supporting community engagement or neighbour engagement in hive inspections
- Working with the City of Edmonton and A.B.C. to develop a comprehensive draft bylaw to support the legalisation of urban beekeeping with the fresh Initiative and the City of Edmonton Bylaw Enforcement. The fresh initiative is Edmonton’s food and urban agriculture strategy, which includes a section on support for urban beekeeping. A team from sustainable development in the city is currently reviewing the feasibility of urban beekeeping.
The collaboration with EDBA and ABC in the participation will include:
- A.B.C offering any educational supports necessary to meet the needs of the community free of charge for 2014. This includes and is not limited to public hearing presentations, field day support, and general education programming
- A.B.C covering the pilot project under its 5 million dollar liability of their honeybees. Through simple contract negotiation with honeybee participants, A.B.C. is capable of extending the coverage to the sites involved in the project
- A.B.C. supporting the development of an Edmonton-based Community Hive program similar to the one in Calgary that uses a private online chat room to foster communication and education with local beekeepers (http://chat.thecommunityhive.org) that could forge a relationship with bylaw regulation with the City of Edmonton. In this way, the community of educated beekeepers would be able to respond to by-law infringements, remove the colonies, respond to local swarm calls, and offer educational connections for those in the community new to the concepts of urban beekeeping.
- The intention is to support and grow the roles currently in place through the EDBA through the application of social media, which is a core competency of A.B.C. that supports the education of beekeepers, and collaborative development and growth of the beekeeping community through tools such as the collaborative purchase of bees.
3) Anticipated Challenges
Urban beekeeping requires responsible management to avoid creating nuisance and/or safety problems for residents or pest concerns for local beekeepers. Some of the anticipated challenges of this pilot project include:
- Education-related issues to specific community members who may be afraid of bees
- Swarming suppression and swarm capture
- Assurance that the Bylaw Concerns or complaints will be followed up with the pilot project beekeepers, including but not isolated to:
- the responsible and timely removal of pilot colonies if required .
- Follow-up with complaints and concerned citizens within the community league areas through email or phone communication
- Risk of pest or disease transmission between hives
The pilot project will address these issues in five ways.
i) Running a basic beekeeping information session in each community league including pamphlets for display in each community that will host bee hives.
ii) Ensuring that neighbours are surveyed and provided with educational materials in all locations adjacent to beekeeping property.
iii) Allow community members to participate as observers in a hive inspection.
iv) Supporting the EDBA with swarm capture activities throughout the year, which may not be related to the specific pilot projects.
v) Adequate pest/disease control and management through frequent hive inspections and mentoring by experienced beekeepers
Beyond the pilot, there are three primary issues must also be addressed to support urban beekeeping:
- Ensuring that backyard beekeeping does not become a trendy “Martha Stewart” addition to untrained and underprepared urbanite gardeners. We believe that we can support this through a number of measures:
- Education requirements for beekeeping within the city to be licenced
- A bylaw that requires licencing of the locations to allow for regular inspections
- Online tests and peer reviewed applications to receive honeybees from the collaborative purchase program (as is done by the A.B.C. in Calgary)
- Support for bylaw enforcement activities through the EDBA and A.B.C.
Limiting nuisance bees from swarms or unattended hives. This can be accomplished by:
- Social media tools to allow beekeepers to give up their hives to experienced beekeepers if they want to through the Community Hive
- Social media tools to allow qualified beekeepers on the Community Hive with the appropriate tools to support swarm capture or hive relocation.
- Educational tools to support local beekeepers who may have issues with neighbours, and the development of “alternate locations” for hives both within and outside of the city for unwanted hives to go to.
- Disease prevention and safety for commercial apiaries surrounding Edmonton
- Bylaw licencing that financially supports an inspector position within the EDBA or A.B.C. who inspects each hive in the city each year, and can provide advice or guidance if a colony has an issues.
- Further education programs through the EDBA which keeps the community up-to-date about pests, prevention, and treatment of the many issues that may arise.
- Collaborative mentorship “field days” which allow beekeepers to learn throughout the city.
- Specific urban locations to test specific IPM tools using hobbyist and their individual colonies as the subject.
4) Anticipated Benefits
The City of Edmonton’s fresh is a high level strategy that will help guide Edmonton towards the vision of “a resilient food and agriculture system that contributes to the local economy and the overall cultural, financial, social and environmental sustainability of the city.” Urban beekeeping can play an important role in food security, improving the resiliency of the local food resources, improving self-sufficiency for the city. Through fresh the city recognizes the importance of food and urban agriculture as an opportunity to increase the sustainability and quality-of-life of their communities, as well as a means for economic development.
Leadership in policy creation
By participating in this pilot project there is an opportunity to support the creation of policy for the city. We believe that positive positioning and educational programming can leverage off of the broader media coverage around CCD to support turning Edmonton back into a bee friendly community. This pilot project is a step in the direction of effective policy management. One recent instance of the lifting of the NY ban on honeybees lead to international media coverage about its impact and importance in 2010:
NBC News, “Big Apple Lifts Beekeeper Ban”
The Globe and Mail, “The Big Apple, Where Honey Talks”
The New York Times, “NYC Abuzz: Sweet Deal Makes Bees Legal”
On Earth, “Sweet News: New York City Dumps Beekeeping Ban”
LA Times, “Sweet News for Colonies: NYC Legalized Honeybees in a Boon for Keepers of Rooftop Hives”
Huffington Post, “New York City Officials Decide to Allow Beekeeping”
Increased yield in urban food crops
The vast majority flowering plants rely on insects to reproduce, set seed and develop fruits. From native plants in our parks and protected lands to cucumbers and melons in our backyard garden – insect pollinators are critical to diverse plant communities and to healthy food systems. Increased pollination services provided by urban bees directly impacts the yield of urban agriculture. With the spread of urban community gardens, community hives are in a position to support that growth with their services.
According to the Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the worth of global crops with honeybee’s pollination was estimated to be close to $200 billion in 2005.Shortages of bees in the US have increased the cost to farmers renting them for pollination services by up to 20%. Alberta has not seen significant impacts from CCD at this point. However, improving bee diversity will improve crop yields for urban farmers at the same time supporting broader honeybee health.
This pilot project offers the opportunity for the collaborative exploration of the challenges and benefits of bylaw-supported urban beekeeping in Edmonton. We anticipate that the pilot project could offer the EDBA as well as the City of Edmonton numerous benefits:
- The exploration of bylaw-supported beekeeping would mean that urban beekeepers would not have to be secretive or at risk of receiving a $500/day fine.
- The development of a Community Hive web site for Edmonton which could enable the collaborative purchase of honeybees and equipment and private chat room access for Q & A connections amongst local beekeepers
- The potential development of a swarm catchers group and network to allow for the rapid response to swarms and to ensure that all swarm capture responsibility does not fall on one individual.
- Greater awareness in the City of Edmonton about honeybees and their importance as well as the issues surrounding Colony Collapse Disorder
5) Next Steps
We feel that this urban beekeeping pilot project offers many benefits for EDBA and its membership as we feel it will support urban beekeeping mentorship opportunities and public awareness in a positive and directed light. The anticipated challenges are manageable through the collaboration between EDBA, A.B.C., and the pilot project’s participants.
We anticipate that if EDBA agrees to support this pilot project we would rework this proposal and send it to the Community Enforcement branch for their review. They have said that should be in a position to review it quite quickly. Upon approval we would:
- Work with EDBA to identify a project manager for this pilot
- Work with EDBA to Identify beekeepers for this project
- Work with EDBA Identify specific locations for each pilot hive for each location type
- Ear-mark bees from the A.B.C collective purchase for installation
- Roll out surveys to the specific locations
- Run community league information sessions
Apiary: is also known as a bee yard, and is a place where beehives of honey bees are kept. Traditionally beekeepers (also known as apiarists) paid land rent in honey for the use of small parcels. Some farmers will provide free apiary sites, because they need pollination, and farmers who need many hives often pay for them to be moved to the crops when they bloom.
Community Hive: www.thecommunityhive.org . A website dedicated to connecting those interested in learning new skills of self-sufficiency and providing a forum as well as information about honeybees and honeybee keeping in the city of Calgary. By doing so, we hope to help create the Hive Mentality within our communities. Focused on urban and hobby beekeeping, we are eager to offer opportunities for community members to share their interests, passions and skills through the Plan-Bee Swarm Catchers group, the Community Hive Chat Room and through the annual Collaborative Purchase of Honeybees.
Community Hive Discussion Board: Including topics such as “new to beekeeping”, swarm catching, equipment design, equipment purchases and ways for bee keepers to keep in touch and learn, as well as announcements about what is going on on the discussion boards, the Community Hive Discussion Board is an automated tool to capture and disseminate information and bring bee-keepers who may be geographically dispersed together.
Collaborative Purchase of Honeybees Process: ABC is bringing in 176 colonies of honeybees to Alberta for the Community Hive Collaborative Purchase. Bees are purchased from Sweet Acres Apiaries in BC, who specialize in raising quality local honeybee stock, selling both mated queens and nucleus (starter) colonies. The Exam and Application Process is administered online through the Community Hive. Individuals can take the exam twice anytime between February 1-28th, 2014. All questions are sourced from the Beekeeping in Western Canada textbook that comes with the A.B.C Level One Beekeeping Course. Applicants with over 80% will be accepted for application review of the purchase up to limit of ordered colonies. Applications are weighted including willingness for applicants with less than 1 year experience may be matched with a mentor, and applicants willing to mentor may be matched with a mentee.
Colony:A group of honey bees in which some honey bee species of the subgenus Apis live and raise their young. Natural beehives are naturally occurring structures occupied by honeybee colonies, such as hollowed-out trees, while domesticated honeybees live in man-made beehives, often in an apiary. A colony is made up of a queen, who lays eggs in the hive, male drones who live to mate with a new queen, and workers, who are all female and do all of the work in the hive. The beehive’s internal structure is a densely packed group of hexagonal cells made of beeswax, called a honeycomb. The bees use the cells to store food (honey and pollen) and to house the “brood” (eggs, larvae, and pupae).
EDBA: The Edmonton District Beekeeper’s Association is a not for profit organization which promotes awareness of and education related to the honey bee (Apis Mellifera) and beekeeping in general. The EDBA has been providing support for area beekeepers for over 50 years. Currently, the EDBA has over 70 members who reside in the capital region. Our members are both commercial and hobbyist beekeepers, meetings are held 7 times throughout the year and often include informative guest speakers. Members are kept up to date on the latest advancements in beekeeping and bee health. The EDBA are the primary swarm catchers for the City of Edmonton currently.
Inspection Reports: Regular hive inspections are a requirement for our pilot project and are a best practice for beekeeping. Inspection reports include basic information such as date, time and weather, but have further detail around the presence of eggs, the queen, brood, pollen, nectar, or capped honey on them. It also captures any manipulations of the hive conducted, as well as records of treatments and feeding, tracking colony temperament, swarming behaviours, and honey harvests. There are a number of available applications that can support this type of reporting.
Mentorship: Mentorship has a long history at both the EDBA and ABC. This pairs an experienced beekeeper with a less-experience beekeeper who has completed the requisite training. This allows for the effective transfer of knowledge as well as allows new beekeepers to develop the confidence to effectively manage their hives.
Swarm: Swarming is the natural means of reproduction of honey bee colonies. A new honey bee colony is formed when the queen bee leaves the colony with a large group of worker bees, a process called swarming. In the prime swarm, about 60% of the worker bees leave the original hive location with the old queen. This swarm can contain thousands to tens of thousands of bees. Swarming is mainly a spring phenomenon, usually within a two- or three-week period depending on the locale, but occasional swarms can happen throughout the producing season. Colonies are established not by solitary queens, as in most bees, but by these swarms which consist of a mated queen and a large contingent of worker bees. This group moves en masse to a nest site scouted by worker bees beforehand. Once they arrive, they immediately construct a new wax comb and begin to raise new worker brood. This type of nest founding is not seen in any other living bee genus. Bees swarm for many reasons, but the primary one is a lack of space within the hive.
Swarm Capture: A swarm of bees sometimes frightens people, though the bees are usually not aggressive at this stage of their life cycle. This is principally due to the swarming bees’ lack of brood (developing bees) to defend and their interest in finding a new nesting location for their queen. This does not mean that bees from a swarm will not attack if they perceive a threat; however, most bees only attack in response to intrusions against their colony. Swarm clusters, hanging off of a tree branch, will move on and find a suitable nesting location in a day or two. In Calgary there are two organizations that support the capture swarms that are cast by feral honey bees or from the hives of domestic beekeepers, and for ABC the activities are coordinated through the Community Hive. Swarm capture by ABC in Calgary requires that the bees are not sold and that the beekeeper capturing the swarm has the equipment to do so.
Volunteer Project Coordination: Responsible for supporting the development, kick-off, implementation, community engagement, reporting and wrap-up of a pilot project for the hives. They are the primary contact person for this pilot project.