Calgary buzzing with renewed interest in bees

The beekeeping efforts that seem to be paying off

Bee enjoying clover. CONTRIBUTED / Lynn Moerschbacher

The bee population seems to be thriving in Calgary, thanks to awareness, organizations, the City, and possibly, COVID-19. 

World Bee Day is coming up May 20. Calgary was named a “Bee City” in December of 2019, and efforts to uphold the title haven’t stopped. Calgary has two Bee Boulevards containing native shrubs, grasses and flowers that attract native pollinators.

There’s a new twist that has folks buzzing. On May 31, the city’s Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw will be discussed in council. It proposes a licensing program for beekeeping.

“Beekeeping is a growing hobby in Alberta; establishing a licensing system in Calgary allows beekeeping to continue with increased ability to address community nuisance or safety issues,” the bylaw said. 

The city doesn’t track specific bee populations in the city, they said.

Calgary and District Beekeepers Association

Did you know? Pollinators contribute to
every 1/3 bite of food humans consume.
Photo provided by Lynn Moerschbacher.

Liz Goldie is one of the directors on the Calgary and District Beekeepers Association board. Goldie looks after exhibits for public education, presentations for schools and community centers, and works with the City of Calgary on reviewing beekeeping bylaws. 

Calgary Beekeepers have been around since 1930. Goldie said the main goal of the non-profit is to educate beekeepers.

“We do that by teaching courses, having mentoring programs, inviting guest speakers, and we provide email guidance,” she said.

They want more people to learn and live with Calgary’s bee population.

Host-a-Hive

The host-a-hive program allows people in the community to contact Calgary Beekeepers and volunteer their property to place beehives. A beekeeper is then married to the person requesting the hive.

“Then the beekeepers have a place to put some of their bees, and the homeowner can provide a nice habitat for the bees,” Goldie said.

Goldie said in 2021, they had about 25 people wishing to provide homes to beehives. In 2020, only 16 locations offered their homes to beehives and beekeepers. She created the program eight years ago and said it has taken off since COVID, possibly due to people spending more time in their yards. 

The Bumblebee Recovery Program is another project of the Calgary Beekeepers. People are encouraged to send an email to calgarybeekeepers@gmail.com if they have questions, problems or concerns about the bees in their yards.

“Most people don’t want to hurt the bees, and that’s been a real change over the years. The majority of people actually keep the bees.” Goldie said.

“Instead of just calling an exterminator, people now call us… and we just explain to them facts about the bees, like the life cycle and what kind of bees they have.”

Goldie said that people’s willingness to live with the bees is excellent for the bumblebee population. The Recovery Program also helps recover bees when they are in a nuisance location and moved somewhere safe.

Mining bees

The Calgary Beekeepers have seen an increase in questions regarding mining bees, which are part of the Andrena Genus. People who contact them are usually curious about what the insects are, as they don’t resemble bumblebees. Goldie said they live in bare soil and burrow down to make nesting cavities. 

“They stay there all year and next spring they emerge again. They’re only around for about six weeks to two months,” she said. 

Goldie said finding a suitable habitat for ground-dwelling bees is difficult in the city as there is not a lot of bare soil, but she’s happy about the number of inquiries about the native bees.

“Because they don’t have a colony or queen to protect, they’re very docile. They’re really easy-going bees,” she said.

The City of Calgary also had advice for helping bees and said adding bee-friendly plants or installing a mason bee house to your garden can do wonders for the population. 

“Flowers in shades of blue, yellow, white and purple are most attractive to bees,” the website said.

Keep up the bee-autiful work

While the City mentions climate change and pesticide as putting considerable strain on the bee population, Goldie remains optimistic that bees are growing in numbers.

“People are more welcoming of bees and not wanting to get the exterminator to kill them, which they did in the past,” she said.

“People are happy to see bees and happy to provide the habitat.”

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