Council gets the buzz on urban bees

A Slocan Valley woman is hoping Nelson city council gets in on the buzz around urban beekeeping.

Christina Yahn of The Queens Bees Project addressed city council last week.

A Slocan Valley woman is hoping Nelson city council gets in on the buzz around urban beekeeping.

At last week’s committee of the whole meeting Christina Yahn spoke to council about The Queens Bees Project. One of the goals of grass roots project is to create policy that would allow and encourage city residents to begin keeping bees on their property.

“One of the big issues is just getting our bee populations increased enough so we can sustain our own bees,” Yahn explained.

Honeybees are vital to food production. Bees are important pollinators that help plant life across the globe flourish. Over the years human activity, pollution, changing agricultural practices and invasive species have had a serious impact on bee populations. In what experts are calling a crisis, the entire food supply is at risk if bee populations don’t rebound.

Yahn told council that in big cities like Vancouver, Calgary and Chicago, urban beekeeping is on the rise. In smaller centres like Vernon and Fernie, city councils have recently adopted bylaws to regulate and stimulate beekeeping.

One of the upshots for those who decide to embark on beekeeping as a hobby is honey can be produced for sale. But Yahn warns it shouldn’t be about the bottom line.

“Like most things, when it’s all about money or making honey there are things that start to lack,” she said. “But when you are truly a bee guardian and you are taking care of the bees, understanding the whole relationship between the plant, human and bee… then naturally you are going to be doing the best for the hive. In turn they are going to grow and make more honey.”

The majority of council seemed receptive to the idea, but did throw several questions Yahn’s way. Councillor Robin Cherbo told Yahn he thought it was a great idea, but wondered about hives being a bear attractant.

“It’s not really like the cartoons where you have hives and the bears gather around,” she said.

Yahn did concede there are challenges, but through her project said there was nothing that couldn’t be overcome.

Supporting Yahn at the meeting was Harrop resident Dave Johnston who currently maintains 50 hives at his property east of Nelson. Johnson grew up in Nelson where his parents kept urban hives on their property in the 1950s and 60s. He told council there were the odd problems with swarms, but they were always handled easily by those who know how to control the hives.

Yahn told local media after the meeting that she understands some city residents might initially react negatively to the increase of stinging insects, but added education is the key to acceptance.

“It’s an automatic reaction,” Yahn said of the reluctance. “They are a really misunderstood and there is a lot of fear. I really believe that the more people learn about them the less fear we would have as a society.”

At the end of her presentation council agreed to take a closer look at its polities regarding beekeeping at its priority setting meeting in September.

“It was great to see,” Yahn said of council’s reaction. “From here I am just going to continue following up with them to make sure that is something that stays a priority in their meetings. I will also continue to education with the public.”


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