Brenna Warren isn't sure if her bees are alive or not. She checked on them a month ago, but there's no action around the hive now, except for us. The beehive belongs to SeeMore Green, a gardening collective on Dalhousie campus, and this is the first season it's lived in their small garden, tucked between Seymour and Henry Streets.
Warren is a qualified beekeeper who trained in Surrey, BC, at the Honeybee Centre. She has worked with bees for four years and she started this hive late in the season, in July, when she began as co-coordinator of the Green. Word spread around town like a crop circle in an English field. Bees? Really? What a quiet, surprising rumour.
Warren gets the smoker going and lifts the hive lid. It's a small hive, only two boxes high. A drone comes out the front door to investigate.
"If there's one, there must be more," she exclaims.
She shyly admits Dal doesn't know about the bees. She turned down earlier media requests to talk, but now, on her last checkup of the year before the bees go into hibernation, she agreed to talk to The Coast. "I feel ready. The issues of urban beekeeping need to be addressed."
What are the issues? "People are fearful about colonies in close quarters" near them, Warren says. She says we ought to see bees "not as scary, but as a positive thing. The health of the honeybee reflects the health of our species. Healthy honeybees mean a healthy neighbourhood," because what they are eating, we take in, too.
Bees are an invisible barometer of environmental health. But do we have reason to fear them? "Bumblebees are the most docile," Warren says. "Honeybees are fairly docile. Depends on your treatment of them." Warren made sure the bees' flight paths are out of the way of pedestrians. The hive sits on the roof of SeeMore's garden shed, 10 feet in the air.
And SeeMore is not the only hive in town. "There are multiple beekeepers in the Halifax-Dartmouth area," says Joanne Moran, provincial bee health advisor for the provincial Department of Agriculture. "They're hobbyists and they tend not to draw attention to themselves."
Moran hasn't heard a complaint in years. "A number of years ago we had a complaint from a neighbour , but it was more that they didn't like their neighbour. The bees were the excuse to give their neighbour a hard time."
There is no bylaw against beekeeping in the city, although Moran says it is good practice to tell your neighbours about your hives.
Overall, there are at least 200 hobbyist beekeepers across the province, and this year's harvest was good. Even though there's lots of honey in their hive, SeeMore Green didn't take any. Warren left it for the bees. She did taste it, though. She points to a huge Linden tree. "That," she says, "should be a great tasting source. But really, this honey tastes like a variety of wild flowers in the neighbourhood."
In general, Nova Scotia honey does not taste as diverse as what Warren sampled in BC. Out west, beekeepers make raspberry, apple, pear, fireweed, even pumpkin honey. Here, most of the 19,000 hives in the province pollinate commercial blueberry fields.
Warren doesn't know what to do with the bees next season. Maybe start a beekeeping cooperative, or a study group if there's interest. Still, wouldn't it be great if a restaurant could serve Haligonian honey next year?
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posted by ALLISON SAUNDERS, Mar 16/17
Consume responsibly, and don't forget to share. comments 0
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Just brew it comments 0
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The former Greek Village space makes way for seafood and drinks comments 2