People have been buzzing about declining bee populations for years. Pesticides and humans taking over the bees’ habitat are some probable culprits, and scientists, naturalists, and everyday people like us are working hard to protect the bees. They are worth the effort!
Without bees, the crops that feed about 90 percent of the earth’s population would die off. So would the animals that eat the plants that bees pollinate and the animals that eat those animals. Bees are very important! If bees could charge for their pollination services, they’d be worth billions of dollars per year in crop revenues. We have them to thank for our fruits, vegetables and flowers, and of course, honey – so a few billion is a bargain!
Luckily, it costs much less to get involved in the coolest hobby – urban beekeeping. For a few hundred dollars, and some time logged into Google to research bees, a hobbyist can set up her own hive. All it takes is equipment to keep the keeper protected, standard beehive boxes, and the bees themselves and you can be ready for some urban beekeeping. There are lots of organizations across Calgary that offer information and courses about beekeeping to get people started and support the hobby, like the Calgary and District Beekeepers Association and Apiaries and Bees for Communities, and the provincial government can help make sure you’re following the rules.
There has been a jump in the number of people participating in urban beekeeping in Calgary in the past years. Unlike some other Canadian cities, there aren’t laws restricting Calgary beekeepers from having hives. We are allowed to have a backyard hive as long as our neighbours don’t have a problem with it. You do have to register your hive with Alberta Agriculture every year, though.
Backyard beekeepers often start with a small colony of a few thousand bees. A healthy, established colony can produce more than 100 pounds of honey each year, and that has attracted lots of people to the hobby. There are even local hotels that are keeping rooftop beehives and using the honey from them in their restaurants and spas. It’s a sweet arrangement!
Bees need attention and beekeeping is a lot of work – especially in a place with crazy weather like Calgary! But keeping pollinators buzzing around to help our veggies, fruits, and crops growing is totally worth it.