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Beehives pop up on roof of MacEwan University’s downtown Edmonton campus

Beekeeper Troy Donovan inspects the bee hives on the roof of MacEwan University's City Centre Campus Friday, May 27, 2016.
Beekeeper Troy Donovan inspects the bee hives on the roof of MacEwan University's City Centre Campus Friday, May 27, 2016. Global News

MacEwan University has some new visitors and they’ve got the staff and students buzzing with excitement.

Four flow hives have been set up on the roof of one of the buildings at the City Centre Campus. The hives are part of the university’s new urban bee keeping pilot project.

Nearly 32,000 bees are living on the roof. The bees and four queens were shipped in from New Zealand. The goal is to harvest honey, learn how the bees act and examine the role they play in the ecosystem.

“Bees may be small, but they play a big role in human and ecosystem health,” said Kalen Pilkington, head of Sustainability at MacEwan University.

“Bees and other pollinators, which are vital to our food system, pollinate almost 80 per cent of all food crops according to a UN study.”

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READ MORE: How you can help save the bees this spring

Around the world, bee populations are declining due to a variety of factors, including neonicotinoid pesticides, loss of habitat and varroa mites.

Watch below: Animation illustrates the decline in the bee population

A five-year study recently released by the University of Maryland and the U.S. Department of Agriculture concluded that viruses and mites might be playing a larger part than once believed.

READ MORE: Bees highly threatened by mites, viruses, study finds

The bees at MacEwan will be taken care of by an on-site certified beekeeper who will ensure the safety of the colonies.

“We’ve had them on that platform now for not even a month and they’re doing wonderfully well. It’s nice to see them actually put some pollen inside and some nectar and they’re starting to lay their little eggs,” beekeeper Troy Donovan said.

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“I’ve just been amazed at how quickly they’ve taken to this area.”

MacEwan University’s pilot program is running in conjunction with the City of Edmonton’s urban beekeeping pilot project.

The honey that is produced will be sold through MacEwan Dining Services.