The North might not seem like the most hospitable place for honeybees with the long and hard winters, but it hasn’t stopped a small group of beekeepers in Yellowknife from getting their buzz on.
Marie Auger, founder of Sweet Ride Honey, and her partner Kyle Thomas have been keeping bees in Yellowknife for nearly three years.
“We have a short season here,” said Auger. “We support weeds here because they are fast blooming in the spring and a first food source for bees.”
Usually the couple’s honey will start flowing June. They usually kick-start their harvest by feeding their bees sugar water in the spring.
Getting their hives through the wintertime is another challenge, one that Thomas and Auger know well.
The long and harsh winter coupled with a rainy summer resulted in the loss of all their hives last year.
“I had four hives and they all perished over winter,” said Auger. “Most of that was my fault because I harvested too much honey, which weakens the hive.”
Bees themselves don’t exactly hibernate, a hive will slow down their metabolism to the point where they don’t have to eat and stay clustered, constantly vibrating and moving for warmth.
“It’s very similar to what Antarctic penguins do, circling and rotating for warmth,” said Auger.
Matt Vincent, a paramedic and bee enthusiast, is the man Auger credits with kickstarting bee keeping culture in Yellowknife.
Vincent now keeps six hives in his backyard, which he has turned into a bee oasis, full of dandelions, fireweed and clover.
“Having a lot of beekeepers in town can be a good and bad thing,” said Vincent. “Introducing more bees when there isn’t necessarily more food would mean weaker hives overall.”
Vincent has been vocal and instrumental about the benefits of planting clover in Yellowknife, something he said he personally brought up with the mayor. Nearby residents do not seem to mind the profusion of bees in the neighbourhood.
“We did not talk to our neighbours about it, but we’ve never had a complaint,” said Auger
“To be honest I’m not even sure they notice unless they hear us talking about it,” said Thomas. “They mostly just come up and go out.”
Thomas said they are pretty in tune with their work and don’t bother with people.
Currently there are no bylaws or regulations that specify how many bees can be kept in the city.
“It’s good and bad,” said Vincent. “Regulations aren’t always a bad thing I’m sure it’s coming. I just hope that when they write the bylaws they do it with facts and not just what they think should happen.”
Vincent said he has done some preliminary chats with policy writers as well.
The practice has a lot of positives from promoting the pollination of local plant life and producing honey for the owner but keeping bees is not everyone and requires a lot of research, according to Vincent, who is currently loaning two hives to a group in Trail’s End.
“A lot of people have the mindset of ‘I’m going to get a beehive to save the bees’ but they need to research it,” said Vincent. “Every two weeks I go over and check the hives with them, they’re learning and quite keen. There’s considerations for cost and maintenance. I remember watching every video I could find on the subject before starting.”