Becoming a Beekeeper

The beekeeping season is almost underway, and I hope it will be the first of many. But for now, I have lots of learning to do!

This year I became a volunteer amateur beekeeper with the Bee Collective of Santropol Roulant, a non-profit organization that, through volunteer collectives and community programs, is doing many things to bring the community together (Meals-on-Wheels, etc). What makes the experience extra special is that those of us lucky few will be trained in urban beekeeping in downtown Montréal within a collective that is run on democracy and consensus, just like our bees.

Image result for beekeeping

For now, our beekeeping involves weekly meetings to discuss bee education, Epi-pen procurement, how many hives we will manage for the season and discussion of lessons learned from last year. It was collectively decided that we will keep  3-6 hives, order 3 new queen bees, and split two existing hives if they prove healthy enough after opening.

Our 6 rooftop hives are located at McGill University, and on the Santropol building itself, in the heart of plateau Mont Royal. The hives are still covered in insulation for winter. They look innocuous except for the small visible holes in the side of the hives, below which several dearly departed bees can be seen (nothing to worry about!) By audio check, it is possible to check the health of these hives, even while still “dormant”, in order to assess the health of the hive and whether intervention is required. Our assessment showed one healthy hive, and one hive requiring a bit of TLC. 

The Bee Collective is mandated with connecting urban-dwellers and food sources through education. We also harvest honey twice per year. Each beekeeper will receive a large portion of honey (relatively speaking) and the rest will be sold with profits donated back to fund Santropol Roulant.

We are finishing up our inventory of tools and gear this Sunday, and the hives will be opened in late April, weather permitting. In the meantime, it’s just the right time to plant those bee friendly seeds : Asters (pictured below), black-eyed susans, snapdragons, cone flowers, zinnias, salvia, sunflowers, etc. This is especially important for our urban bees who might struggle to find food and clean water sources in the downtown areas! Happy planting!

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