There’s a new buzz in Calgary’s local beekeeping community.
The city’s new beekeeping regulations promote responsible beekeeping practices and education, as beekeepers are now required to obtain a license to keep bees in the city.
In order to obtain a license, local beekeepers must complete an approved training course, provide proof of property ownership for where the bees will be kept, and provide a site plan for the proposed hive location.
Beekeepers are also limited to two colonies per property unless approval is granted otherwise from the city.
Instead of completing an approved training course, Calgarians who were beekeepers prior to January 1 also have the option to provide receipts dated before 2022 for bees or beekeeping equipment.
Currently, the only training course that the city has approved to meet the requirements for this license is a two-day long course run by the Calgary and District Beekeepers Association.
“The unique thing about our course is that we have four very experienced instructors, and every beekeeper does things just a little bit differently,” said Liz Goldie. “I think that is a real asset.” Goldie is a director for the Calgary and District Beekeepers Association and has been beekeeping for 11 years.
This new urban beekeeping licensing program is included under the city’s updated Responsible Pet Ownership bylaw. On top of obtaining a license from the city, Calgarians will still have to register annually with the Government of Alberta.
These regulations are in place to ensure responsible beekeeping and to promote healthy beekeeping practices. Beekeeping requires in-depth knowledge in order to maintain healthy hives, prevent pests and diseases, reduce mortality, and ensure that a colony does not abscond, or leave, the hive.
In addition, Alberta’s harsh and unpredictable winters pose a unique threat to beehives, so maintaining good beekeeping practices and having an in-depth knowledge of how the winter can impact bees is important for Calgary beekeepers.
“There are many factors that make it hard for bees to make it through the winter,” said Goldie. “And the primary one is if they’re diseased or they have pests, it weakens the bees.”
One example of a pest that can attack bees is Nosema, which is a type of fungal parasite that can cause disease and fatality in honeybees. Cold and poor weather conditions can also cause bee mortality.
“Bees don’t defecate inside their hive. They always fly out to go to the bathroom, so in the winter they can’t and their digestive system is packed with waste … and that waste builds up in there. That diseased waste can kill them as well and that’s Nosema,” said Goldie.
Like many hives across the country, this winter was hard for SAIT’s Beekeeping Club in terms of bee mortality. One of the club’s three hives on the rooftop of SAIT’s John Ware Building did not survive the winter due to the poor weather conditions.
Now, the club currently maintains two active hives and they also sell honey and beeswax products on their online shop. In addition, they hold events to help the SAIT community learn more about bees and beekeeping.
One of these recent events was a hive inspection where the club welcomed members of the SAIT community to a routine observation of their hives. SAIT’s Beekeeping Club performs hive inspections every seven to ten days.
At hive inspections, attendees are able to observe the hives, ask questions, and even gain hands-on experience.
Benny Chang attended this inspection, which took place on Saturday, May 21. Chang is a recent graduate of SAIT’s mechanical engineering technology program.
“I was all smiles [and] it was a pretty fantastic day,” said Chang. “I came into it as a kid having a big fear of bees … so going in having a [protective] suit on, really getting up close and personal was kind of exciting, but also there’s a small amount of achievement there.”
Hive inspections allow beekeepers to observe the health and production of a hive. They inspect the condition of the hive, including looking at the frame conditions, honey production, and checking for signs of a full life cycle.
At hive inspections, attendees may also be able to see larvae hatch or even catch a glimpse of the colony’s queen.
For those interested in learning more about beekeeping and honey production, attending hive inspections can provide an up-close, firsthand experience of a beehive and give more insight into Calgary’s beekeeping community.