Help The Bees & Help Ourselves

[ … a version of this article was previously published in Kitchener Post …]

We would do well to consider the honey bee, a pretty darn cute little apidae that is critically important to us in agricultural and gustatory ways.

Besides their honey production, bees are tiny, work-horse pollinators of much of what we eat. It’s said that one-third of everything we pop into our mouths we do so thanks to bees.

And yet, bees are at risk. Given verroa mites, who can destroy entire bee colonies, and the mysterious and unexplained Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) where entire hives of bees simply vanish without a trace, the world’s bee population is threatened.

Last month, the European Union banned the pesticide neonicotinoid for a two year period citing reports that the chemical was partially responsible for declining bee populations.

Bees poster


What can we do, you ask? Well, to start, think about bees. And if you love honey and understand the immensely important role that bees play as pollinators, then you can also support bees and the people who advocate on their behalf.

To that end, Dr. Erica Shelley, a PhD in molecular and medical genetics, is currently offering “Natural Beekeeping Workshops” this summer, the first of which is scheduled for June 1.

What started out as a beekeeping hobby for Shelley, a resident of Waterloo Region the past nine years who took her doctorate from the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, has evolved into apis advocacy and beekeeping instruction.

“I wanted to teach people beekeeping, Shelley says.” And I was at the time dating a woodworker so we combined the two components of beekeeping and building beehives.”

She now does both components of the two-day weekend courses. The first day is the ground work—the “Beekeeping 101”—while the second day is the hive building.

Shelley says that in Ontario we lose 50 to 60 percent of our bees due to “unhealthy hives” heading into winter each year. She believes that nurturing healthier, and what she calls “heritage,” bees and better hives will mean more bees will make it through the winter.

It is precisely this that is the intention of the workshops. “People will learn about the biology of bees and … the practical elements of beekeeping, including the materials you need, how to prepare them for winter, and getting them ready again in the spring,” she says.

The “Beekeeping 101” component is on a “pay-as-you-can” basis. The hive-building course is $100. Shelley teaches how to build what is called Langstroth and top-bar hives. The former was patented in the 1850s and is considered the classic hive construction.

Shelley will also help match new beekeepers with farms and rural spaces in which to do beekeeping if they live within city boundaries. That’s a pretty important step. “I have a number of farms who would love to have bees,” she adds.

For more information about the workshops call Shelley at 519-342-1014, email, or visit her Facebook page.

[Bee image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.]
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