The buzz on beekeeping during the pandemic
KINGSTON, ONT. -- With many people finding new ways to be busy bees during the pandemic, beekeeping is becoming a more popular hobby.
However, experts say that while it can be the perfect time to try the new hobby, whether you actually can or not depends on where you live and how prepared you are to care for the pollinators.
Paul Lacelle, who owns Lacelle's Apiary and Beekeeping Supplies, says he’s seen an increase in new beekeeping hobbyists in eastern Ontario throughout the pandemic.
“New beekeepers have increased 20 to 30 per cent,” he tells CTV News Ottawa from his store in Carleton Place.
If you’re thinking now would be a good time to give beekeeping a try, the Ontario Beekeepers Association says there are some things to consider.
You’re in it for the long haul
Beekeeping is a “long-haul endeavour” and require dedication beyond just a year, the association says.
“The first year, the colonies are busy building comb and population, so no honey to speak of. Second year onwards, lots of honey! Unless there is a drought. Or it’s too rainy. Or it was a terribly cold winter and your bees died. Or an early spring and your bees swarmed,” says the OBA. “Bees are livestock and require responsible, consistent attention. Plus, abandoning or poorly managing your hives can cause considerable damage to the environment or to other beekeepers.”
Location, Location, Location
Where you live is also a major factor.
In cities like Ottawa, bylaw prohibits urban beekeeping within city limits.
If you’re in a rural setting, you should be sure to have a large piece of land, as the Ontario Bees Act requires that honey bee colonies cannot be placed within 30 metres of a property line.
Don’t be afraid to look to the experts
Bill Lake is a beekeeping hobbyist of 30 years; he says the pandemic may be a good time for some who have been considering beekeeping to try it.
“I like the solitude. That's the one thing with beekeeping, you can do it all by yourself if you want. You don’t have to have a big operation.”
Lake says he’s always amazed by how different each day and each year can be.
“The bees are always teaching you something. You can do something with 30 hives, but there are always five or six that are like, ‘No, we’re not doing it that way today,'” he laughs.
Lake says the best thing to do is reach out to the Ontario Bee Association for guidance, or your local chapter, and stay off the internet.
“Mentoring,” he says. “Someone like myself will offer to take a new beekeeper under their wing. As the year comes up, you have all sorts of questions, ‘When should I do this? When should I do that?’”
Lacelle agrees. He says keep it small if you’re trying it out, and warns it’s also a financial commitment.
“It can be overwhelming if you’re a new beekeeper and you want to start with five or ten colonies. So maybe one or two is a good place to start,” he says. “There’s a budget and you should keep in mind all your equipment. That sort of thing.”
Consider allergies and neighbours
The OBA also warns that you should take any allergies into consideration. They say if you’re allergic, or if your neighbours are, a sting could cause anaphylactic shock, a life-threatening allergic reaction.
Lacelle agrees every detail needs to be thought through.
“Where are you going to place those colonies once you get them,” he says. “Are they going to be near your neighbours? Children?”