Watch above: Urban beekeeping is becoming a popular pastime in Saskatoon with University of Saskatchewan students busy along the riverbank Wednesday setting up “hotels” for bees. Meaghan Craig says the hope is to attract bees to pollinate plants and vegetables and produce honey in a city setting.
SASKATOON – It’s a trend toward tradition that has more and more urbanites buzzing over beekeeping.
“I have a huge garden and I knew it would be good for pollination,” said Bevin Bradley, “It’s really important for me to be raising my kids in an environmental way so that they know where their food is coming from and also to have a hand in learning about that themselves.”
At present, Bradley’s six-year-old has a little section of the garden dedicated to her and their two-year old will have her own as soon as next year.
Both girls have watched their parents harvest honey at season’s end along with neighbouring children from a “bug tent.”
“I really enjoy just letting people know about bees and having an open door so they can come and learn more if they like.”
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For the most part, the City Park neighbourhood is happy to have them around.
“In my experience there’s a “getting to know” period where people when they know that we have bees they might mistake their wasp problem with bees.”
Right now, each colony has anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 bees and were active during the more mild parts of winter. In the peak of summer the swarm will increase to up to 60,000 bees in each colony.
It’s a hobby the Bradley family started three years ago with plans on expanding their four hives to seven this season.
“I don’t find it overly time consuming to have a few colonies in my backyard. It’s more of the knowledge and making sure that I’m doing it right so that I’m not causing more harm than good,” said Bradley but warns that you still need to be attentive.
“There’s a lot of things that have to be monitored like the number of mites that might be on your colony and different diseases that could happen.”
Bradley also admits that the biggest concern regarding bees has happened.
“Everyone in my family has been stung once so I think when you have bees your bound to get stung at some point.”
Although you can harvest honey throughout the season, Bradley says you generally harvest the honey twice and last year. their labour of love fetched them more than 70 mason jars of delicious honey.
Across the river, an entirely different type of project was underway on Wednesday at Cosmopolitan Park as part of Earth Day dedicated to bees.
These new “buzz-worthy” bee hotels are meant for solitary bees.
“Not all bees are honey bees,” said Michael Cavallaro, a PhD student at the University of Saskatchewan’s School of Environment and Sustainability.
“You’ll get leaf-cutter bees, your mason bees, your bumblebees in some cases but these are bees that will rest in nature cavities and it will be a single-individual per cavity and these houses just supply some colonized areas for them to establish.”
In the prairie region there are more than 350 different species of solitary bees that prefer to nest in wood as opposed to hives.
“The number one ecosystem service that we get from bees is pollination, not only for crops but agricultural purposes but in an urban setting it’s really important for the pollination of your garden, vegetables.”
Even more priceless, the pollination of native prairie plants that are on the decline as land-use shifts to more agriculture and urban development.
“To keep that relationship between native plants and native pollinators, it’s really critical that these guys have a place to colonize and establish in an environment like this,” explained Cavallaro.