Gagetown is a-buzz with bees

Article / August 10, 2016 / Project number: 16-0210

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Gagetown, New Brunswick — Roof tops in Gagetown are now welcoming a new type of worker – the honeybee. 

Beehives at Gagetown ease sting of bee loss

5th Canadian Division Support Group (5 CSDG) Gagetown recently started a beekeeping club with hives on rooftops, mirroring communities across the globe that are encouraging urban and suburban hobby beekeeping. 

The hives, while small in number, are providing a unique opportunity for members of the Base community to develop new skills and sweet products with positive environmental impacts.

Recent concerns surrounding colony collapse disorder have increased across North America and Europe.

A loss of bees or other pollinators would wreak havoc on the national and regional economy. A world without honeybees would see massive declines in blueberry, raspberry, gooseberry, strawberry, apple and cranberry production in New Brunswick, all of which are key contributors to the provincial economy.

This problem is compounded as New Brunswick presently does not have sufficient pollinators or beekeepers for cash crops, resulting in the importation of thousands of hives from other parts of the country.

Youthful buzz boosts beekeeper demographic

The number of beekeepers in New Brunswick has also declined due to the aging beekeeper population. With fewer beekeepers, the province is at risk of losing a valuable skillset that benefits the economy, generates healthy food and local products, and is used as a litmus test for environmental conditions. The Base club, with just over 20 members currently pursuing an interest in beekeeping, seeks to change this.

No bears, no pesticides – high bees are safer bees

5 CSDG Gagetown is joining the ranks of other major cities that have all embraced rooftop beekeeping and bee-friendly gardening in public areas. 

Rooftop beekeeping provides the ideal location for bees. The roofs are away from bears, there is an abundance of accessible forage, and pesticides are not employed – all setting the conditions for a successful project.

The rooftops block the north wind in the winter but enable the bees to forage in the summer. The Base’s Roads and Grounds section reduced the mowing around the building thereby allowing the flowers to regenerate for a longer period between cuttings. The delay in mowing saves fuel and labor costs while providing forage for the bees. In a minute sense, it also reduces carbon emissions from mowing equipment. 

Salvaged materials and hive husbandry increase honey haul

The hives currently sit on pallets and were constructed from pine shelving and recycled materials, adding another positive environmental impact while reducing costs. Several of the hives were then painted using mis-tinted paint. Each hive contains five to 20 frames on which the bees will produce comb, eventually filling it with brood and honey. 

A lucky hive owner may, in the later part of the fall, be able to harvest a small batch of honey but generally it will take a year to generate a strong hive that will be able to produce excess honey to reward the beekeeper.

Kinder, gentler little buzzers

Honeybees are bred to be calm in nature. Contrary to popular belief, most insect stings do not come from honeybees but from hornets, ants, spiders, and wasps, which can sting multiple times. Typically, honeybees will warn before stinging by buzzing in a “z” pattern in front of an intruder who is just outside the hive and then bouncing off that person. Stinging brings death to the bee so there is a significant incentive not to.

Foraging bees will fly away from people when collecting nectar and pollen and are not confrontational, while male bees, known as drones, do not sting at all.

Next generation of beekeepers to carry sweet torch

As the club grows, a younger generation of beekeepers – like the young brood of a hive – will be born. Participants will learn the wisdom of the aging beekeeper, carrying the sweet torch passed from generation to generation while lending environmental and economic benefits to the local New Brunswick community.

By Major Gord Bennett, 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown

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