THE BENEFITS OF URBAN BEEKEEPING
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.