Beekeeping on campus teaches ecology

Arboretum’s Centre for Urban Ecology held beekeeping workshop Oct. 10. (Photo: Sarah Minard)

Sarah Minard
Life Reporter

Humber beekeeper Fran Freeman put a honeycomb slat into a metal contraption and began turning a handle.

Pure wildflower honey and tiny bits of the honeycomb poured out of a spout into a plastic bucket.

Four attendees of the workshop were busy scraping honeycomb off slats from the hives, occasionally popping pieces of honey-drenched comb into their mouths.

Nibbling on pieces of honeycomb offered a quick taste test of the natural honey in a process that begins with bees pollinating flowers in the Humber North campus Arboretum.

On October 10th, the Centre for Urban Ecology at Humber held a beekeeping 101 workshop aimed at teaching novice beekeepers how to winterize and harvest their hives.

“I think it’s always been an aspect of the beekeeping, educating urbanites about bees, partly because of the fear factor,” said Freeman.

Emmeline Molnar, an environmental studies student at University of Toronto, stood at a table with her mother, hands sticky with honey while scraping away at slats of honeycomb.

“I know there are a lot of beekeeping initiatives taking place on campus at U of T and I’m affiliated with DIG IN and a lot of the agricultural extra-curriculars that happen on campus, but beekeeping was sort of this area I hadn’t explored yet,” said Molnar.

Included in the workshop was a tutorial on how to set up a proper beehive, how the bees move and react and how to properly insulate the hives for winter.

Bees play a significant role in sustainability. The pollination of plants by bees allows fruit and seed crops to produce our food.

The Humber honeybees in particular pollinate more than 250 acres of plants in the surrounding area.

“People have lost track of where their food comes from and they don’t make the connection between bees and pollination and the food on their table,” said Freeman.

Freeman said the bees are not sugar fed, they aren’t given antibiotics, and no harsh chemicals are used on the hives. The beekeeping process at Humber results in organic honey.

Allergies are always a concern when it comes to bees however.

Josh Bowslaugh, landscaper for North York Gardening, encounters bees frequently on the job.

“If I get stung my face puffs up a bit, but it’s nothing deadly. I find if you just gently wave them away instead of freaking out, they will leave you alone,” said Bowslaugh.

It’s important to know that bees are not aggressive by nature and only sting when they feel threatened.

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