Backyard Honey Bees the Importance to Urban Living in the Alberta Urban Garden

On todays episode we are going to talk about the importance of Honey bees and how they can improve our Urban landscapes.

Plants require pollen from one flower to another in order to fertilize and produce a fruiting body. With out these pollinators production drops significantly. According to a 2011 United nations report on bees of the 100 crop species that provide 90% of the worlds food 70 are pollinated by bees.

There are over 20 000 known species of bees in the world and generally fall into categories of species based on their physiology, life cycle and habits. There are Bumblebees, Stingless bees, Honey bees and African Honey Bees.

Honey bees are commonly used for agricultural pollination and are critical for the success of whole crops such as almonds, apples, grapes and strawberries to name a few. Often in the country you will find hives tucked against fields. It was reported by the United Nations that Honey Bees account for approximately 200 billion dollars worth of crops world wide in 2005.

In the first few years gardening in my yard my production was low. This was likely due to the low concentrations of pollinators. In my garden I was thrilled last year to find mason bees. Mason bees are solitary bees and generally only produce what they and their brood need to survive. Anecdotally I noticed an increase in production from my garden after their arrival.

That said I would like to bring some Honey bees onto my property.

Honey bees in an urban environment have a number of benefits to the community. Neighbourhood back yard gardens will produce more healthy food. As little as one hive can travel and benefit up to 6.5km or 4 miles away from their hives.

Bees have relatively basic requirements. Bees collect nectar and pollen from flowers. Nectar is processed into honey and combine with pollen to constitute their food source. The only other thing they require is water which they forage from a variety of sources.

Bees require enough honey to feed the colony over winter. If at the end of the summer there is sufficient honey left over it can be harvested and used as simply honey or you can even brew it an make mead. Some urban hives report collecting between 45 to 55kg or 100 to 120 lbs of honey per year however this can vary depending on location.

The wax the bees create is also a wonderful product that can be used in a variety of ways including candles, beauty products and some medicinal purposes. Bees apply a substance called propolis to the inner surfaces of the hive. This third product that can be harvested from the bees as it has medicinal application for both anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. Honey, wax and propolis products can be used to develop commercial opportunities stimulating the local economy though small business. Further small business opportunities include the making and selling of hive equipment, selling bees including queens.

So are honeybees going to sting myself or my children. Honeybees are generally quite docile insects. They focus on their work and generally not what your doing.

Generally Honey bees are a docile insect and only really get defensive when something is off. Generally speaking they are only going to sting if the individual or the hive is at risk and not as an act of aggression. For the most part the largest risk is in the area of the hive and risk decreases the further you get from the hive.  An observant bee keepers should be able to manage issues of aggression.

If you are a few meters away and don’t have line of sight on the hive it is difficult to know there is a hive. Circling back to the question at hand. Most neighbourhoods have wild varieties of stinging insects including bees, wasps and hornets that can sting and the presence of a hive does not generally increase that risk.

In some municipal jurisdictions there are restrictions on having your own urban honey bees. Currently in Canada there are movements in most large centres to remove any restrictions and allow urban honey bees. Most notably internationally New York and Paris have recently approved urban honey bees bringing great value to their cities.

The other major challenge faced by urban bee keeping is education. For both the bee keeper and the public. If well kept bees can be an great addition and value to our communities and the cornerstone to success is education. Lucky here in Alberta we have great resources for perspective bee keepers including courses and support information.

Ultimately a cooperative approach in an urban area with bees will result in greater production of of local organic produce for families to enjoy. As a bonus you may even get some honey that can be used in a variety of food, medicinal and even brewing purposes. Ultimately the community through bees have the opportunity to develop a connection and appreciation with their community.

On the next bee episode we are going to talk about the massive decline in bee populations world wide through Colony Collapse Disorder and what you can do to help your local bee populations.

If you would like to take a look at a wonderful channel devoted to beekeeping please take a look at my friend Bill’s BeeVlog channel. He takes you through the day to day on keeping bees and much much more.


The Bee Vlog YouTube Channel

How to make Mead

Alberta Beekeepers

Honey Love Urban Beekeepers

Species of Bees

General information on Bees and beneficial flowers:

UN report on Bees:

Honey Bees Basic Physiological Requirements

Are Honey Bees Aggressive

What makes honey bees aggressive?

Government of Alberta Beekeeping resource page$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/prm13239

Back Yard Bees Website

About Stephen

The Alberta Urban Garden Channel hopes to promote organic gardening that is simple, sustainable and does not have to cost a lot. We do this by investigating the Science behind gardening, methods, practices and products to make sure that you will have the best chance of successfully growing your own food at home.


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