We are considering installing two specially designed bear proof honey bee hives at Loutet Farm. We want the community’s opinion on this plan and are providing an opportunity to for people to share their concerns or support for the project as well as having questions answered.
The Community Consultation will be held on March 8th, 7pm at Brooksbank School (980 East 13th Street, North Vancouver). You can find all of the event information by clicking here.
In this post, you can find more information on what we are proposing, why we want honey bees at Loutet Farm, how we could manage pest/bear issues, and safety concerns.
Why have bees at Loutet Farm?
Honeybees around the world have been facing increasing pressures and have been dying off at an alarming rate. As a species that we rely on for the pollination food crops, we are looking to support the species locally. Many believe that they are thriving in urban spaces even while they struggle elsewhere. Plus, they’ll be great pollinators for Loutet Farm, and will provide us the opportunity to sell honey to those in the neighbourhood!
We are proposing to have two honey bee hives located at Loutet Farm. This small apiary will be fenced and will be “bear proofed” (see below for details). The specially designed hives will be extra secure to deter vandalism as well. The hives will be oriented to the south so the honeybee flight path does not cross the public walking path, and is directed away from the Loutet playing fields – through careful design and placement, we will be able to minimize human/bee interactions.
The hives will be managed by Ric Ericson, a north shore beekeeper, who also manages the hives located in the Queen Mary Community Garden (these successful hives are situated in a public area, also adjacent to an elementary school and there have been no stings or problems!). Ric will be able to respond quickly to any reported problems with the hives, and will ensure that they are healthy and productive. Ric is currently coordinating a ‘Bee Guardian’ program at the neighbouring Brooksbank Elementary School. These hives would further support that educational program. Visit www.beefriendly.ca for more information on his current projects.
Stings and Safety
The vast majority of insect stings thought to be by honeybees are actually wasps mistaken for honeybees because of their similar yellow and black stripes. Honeybees will not sting unless they feel physically threatened (their barbed stingers mean honeybees can only sting once, once they sting, they die soon afterward – this means they don’t tend to sting for fun!) – disturbing the hive, blowing on a honeybee (they associate the CO2 of your breath with that of other predators) or squishing them can make them feel threatened. They will not defend a flower or field – only their hive. In contrast, wasps are more agressive and may sting while scavenging for food (i.e. your picnic lunch!). Wasps can sting repeatedly and do not die after stinging, so are more likely to sting more frequently. If you are stung by an insect, here is some useful infomation on stings.
Bears (and vandals)
We plan to do two things to reduce the risk of attracting bears due to the hives:
- Build steel cage frames to “bear-proof” the hives (this will make them difficult to vandalize also).
- Remove the bee colonies from the farm during the months of highest bear activity in the area (September – November).
As Loutet Farm is located in an urban location in North Vancouver, most black bear sightings (that we are aware of) occur in September, October, and November. To avoid the bear’s interest in the Loutet Farm honey bee hives, we propose to remove the bee colonies in August after harvesting the honey, and move them to a different location. The colonies could be returned in the Spring each year, and still provide plenty of opportunities for community engagement activities, and learning opportunities for the Bee Guardian Students at Brooksbank Elementary, as well as be of benefit the farm with the increased pollination and annual honey sales.
By removing the bees when bears are most active in the area, we reduce the risk of those bears coming back repeatedly as we have removed one of the attractants in the area.
In addition to removing the bees during the bear-season, we will also build steel frame structures around the hives to ensure that they are “bear-proof”. This will both act as a deterrent to the bears because they will not be able to access the hives and honey, and it will ensure that the hives are not damaged.
Occasionally, when quarters are cramped, and a colony is looking to reproduce, honeybees will swarm – though this can be alarming (because of the sheer number of bees) this is actually when honeybees are at their most docile. With a simple call to the beekeeper, the swarm can be captured and re-established. A swarm at the Queen Mary Community Garden led to a fabulous opportunity to observe honeybees close up – here you can see Kahya and Bita gently handling bees from a swarm.
If you’ve got questions, concerns or would like more information, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, 604-987-8138 ext. 231