Why Urban Beekeeping is All the Buzz

A rising number of homes and businesses are starting to maintain beehives on city rooftops and in backyards. 

The point? They’re your personal source of locally produced honey and contribute to the honey bee cause. 

Yes, the honey bee cause is a thing. In each of the last six years, one-third of honeybee colonies have been lost in North America and Europe. There is nothing sweet about this news as bees play a significant role in fruit and vegetable production. 

We caught up with Alexandre McLean, co-founder of Alvéole, to hear a little more about urban beekeeping. His business installs and maintains urban beehives and educates on this process.  

      Photo By: Alison Slattery

How did you get into beekeeping?

I started beekeeping with my uncle in Manitoba. I learned through him how to manage the hives and to take care of the bees. I started working out there at sixteen as my summer job. 

What do you do on a daily basis?

I manage 100 urban beehives throughout Montreal, keeping them running and healthy. I also play an active role in running the business. We host workshops and educate on how to use the equipment and handle the bees. Our main goal is to push the promotion of local products like honey and soap that can be the product of urban beekeeping. 

What are the main benefits of urban beekeeping?

It offers local products. Your honey does not have to travel far to get to you. It also helps in the pollination of flowers and trees around the city. The main advantage is that it reduces the decline of bees by offering them a healthier place to live. Unlike increasing numbers of rural areas that are contaminated by a new range of pesticides that directly affect the bee’s nervous system, cities have much less pesticides than some rural areas because their use is illegal. This means we can have a healthy bee population that isn’t constantly in contact with pesticides. Finally, there is the social awareness aspect. The beehives make for great talking points, so having one can raise awareness around the decline in bee populations around the world and on the importance of local products. Urban beehives have been big in Paris, New York and British Columbia. 

Do people get nervous having beehives so close?

Some people are nervous at first, but not after the education we do. And it’s important to remember that bees are not the same as wasps. They are more docile and won’t sting you. A bee will die if he stings you, whereas a wasp can sting multiple times. Bees, on the other hand, focus on trees and flowers. We have gone from 30 to 100 hives in one year, so people definitely like them. The neighbours who were nervous are the first to come and get honey once it’s ready.

How did the Birks partnership develop?

Birks approached us after they saw a rooftop installation of ours. We heard all about their bee campaign and installed three hives on the Birks roof last week. They also planted a floral installation to raise awareness and feed the bees over the season. 

What are the misconceptions about urban beekeeping?

Urban beekeeping doesn’t involve the use of pesticides. Also, there are many bee-friendly plants to complement the hives. Finally, it is entirely possible to have a healthy hive on your rooftop or in your backyard. It does require a degree of maintenance and money, however.

Are you sold yet?

For more information, check out the site for yourself.

#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)

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