ELLE (Canada) - - World -

While some cities re­strict backyard bee­keep­ing (and oth­ers, like Toronto, don’t sanc­tion the prac­tice but tend to turn a blind eye), Van­cou­ver has of­fi­cially em­braced ur­ban api­aries in its quest to be­come a sus­tain­able city. (This is a sig­nif­i­cant de­par­ture from a few decades ago, when ur­ban bee­keep­ing was banned.) To that end, Van­cou­ver has de­vel­oped a set of bee­keep­ing guide­lines; in ad­di­tion, all backyard hives must be reg­is­tered with the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment, which counts 2,400 reg­is­tered bee­keep­ers in Bri­tish Columbia.

Although it may seem like West Coast flak­i­ness—this is, af­ter all, a city that al­lows res­i­dents to keep chick­ens in their yards—there are solid rea­sons to en­cour­age backyard bee­keep­ing. Since a colony’s food sources in a city are more con­sis­tent than in ru­ral ar­eas, ur­ban bees are usu­ally health­ier than their coun­try cousins. As a re­sult, city bees are ef­fi­cient pol­li­na­tors and an im­por­tant part of pro­mot­ing the healthy growth of veg­etable gar­dens and other flora—a de­sir­able out­come for Van­cou­ver, gen­er­ally. For the past decade, bee colonies have been dy­ing at a rate of about 30 per­cent a year across the globe. In

Canada, 58 per­cent of On­tario’s bee colonies did not sur­vive the win­ter of 2013/’14, and the av­er­age loss across the coun­try was 25 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey by the Canadian As­so­ci­a­tion of Pro­fes­sional Api­cul­tur­ists. While the kinds of prob­lems that plague com­mer­cial bee­keep­ing en­ter­prises—colony col­lapse dis­or­der, for ex­am­ple, which may be the re­sult of a per­fect storm of par­a­sites, poor nu­tri­tion and the use of pes­ti­cides—can’t be eas­ily solved, pro­mot­ing healthy ur­ban colonies can, to an ex­tent, act as a coun­ter­bal­ance to the losses.

There are hives through­out Van­cou­ver, some in very un­usual places. On the rooftop of the Fair­mont Wa­ter­front Ho­tel, an apiary pro­duces over 272 kilo­grams of honey an­nu­ally, which is used to cre­ate ev­ery­thing from desserts and choco­lates to cock­tails and a house-made lager. There’s an­other large apiary amid the grasses and plants that make up the Van­cou­ver Con­ven­tion Cen­tre’s living roof. High-end­fur­ni­ture re­tailer In­form In­te­ri­ors keeps bees on the rooftop deck of its Gas­town-area flag­ship. And, ap­pro­pri­ately for a gov­ern­ment that has em­braced api­cul­ture, you’ll also find hives on the roof of Van­cou­ver’s civic head­quar­ters—mak­ing it a fit­ting sight, per­haps, for res­i­dents who’ve ever felt stung by City Hall.

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