Healthier gardens and lots of fresh honey are in store for Qualicum Beach in the near future.
That’s because town council is in the process of legalizing urban beekeeping to give the local ecosystem a boost, and also to help slow the world decline of the bee population.
The bylaw amendment was introduced by Luke Sales, director of planning.
“As it stands,” said Sales, “the bylaw has been given one reading by council, and it takes four readings for them to actually enact the bylaw. So, we’re still fairly early in the process.”
Beekeeping was inadvertently made illegal in Qualicum Beach around 15 years ago when the town was having problems with a noisy rooster. The result was that a general prohibition on all animals that are not pets was put in place.
“It’s actually not the first time we’ve discussed the possibility of legalizing beekeeping. It’s been on the radar for several years that some residents have wanted to do it and our bylaws don’t allow it,” Sales said. “It’s also something that more municipalities are starting to do throughout B.C.”
As many might know, bees are incredibly important in pollinating all types of plants worldwide.
“Bees are a very important part of the ecosystem,” said Sales. “Most of the food in the world is pollinated by bees and so we depend on bees. They also pollinate a lot of natural plants in our ecosystem. They serve an important role, so if more people in the community start taking care of bees and, you know, have them in their backyard, then it’s sort of a win-win. We’re winning because our plants are being pollinated and the residents are getting honey. You know, bees are struggling throughout the world, and no one knows exactly why. Most experts think it’s a culmination of a lot of different stresses on bees that are causing them to fail. Colonies are failing all over the place, and it’s a trend that we don’t want to see continue. Anything that the town can do to help, we should.”
Sales expects the bylaw to be passed by the end of the summer.
Bee colonies all over the world are disappearing due to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), and the varroa mite that attacks honey bees. Human interference is affecting the bee population due to over development that is reducing the habitat in which they can build their hives. Pesticides used on crops are also harming the bees that pollinate them.
Local beekeeper, Lauren Fegan started keeping bees with her husband three years ago.
“We’ve been doing it just for our own personal use, and pleasure,” said Fegan. Though starting a colony can be expensive due to the need for proper equipment, Fegan noted second hand gear is available. “(Bees) are not a huge maintenance,” she said, “but you definitely need to, at certain times of the year, be on the ball.”
Though beekeeping may seem easy, there are a few challenges that beekeepers face.
“The main problem we’ve had is with mites, and with moisture in the hives,” said Fegan.
Keeping the hives dry is important because moisture causes the hive to get cold, and bees need warmth to survive; they only leave their hive if it’s 10 degrees or warmer outside.
“It’s like having a garden,” said Fegan. “You have to do your research, you have to have the right tools, you have to maintain it properly in order to get the production that you want, because if you don’t take care of your bees, they’re going to die.”
Potential beekeepers should consider joining the Nanaimo Beekeepers Club to learn more about bees, and to meet other local beekeepers.
For information on the club, visit www.nanaimobeekeepers.com. or call 250-954-2955.