Beekeeping for more than just honey
It’s hip to care for bees these days -- and not just for the honey. Toronto architect Paul Dowsett of Sustainable.TO, recently designed a “bee condo” inspired by the city’s skyline. It now sits on the roof of the Fairmont Royal York hotel (fairmont.com/promotions/fairmontbees). The structure provides shelter for bees, the rest is up to the prolific pollinators -- no one will tend the hive or collect the honey.
John Fly of the Toronto District Beekeepers’ Association (torontobeekeepers.org) estimates there are over 300 other hives in the city in which the honey is most definitely collected. Indeed urban centres across the country are home to hundreds of beehives and millions of bees. The burgeoning interest in beekeeping is an outgrowth of the grow-your-own movement. Raised vegetable beds have proliferated in city backyards and rooftops, and beekeeping has followed. Bee tending devotees praise the hobby for it’s calming effects and compare it to doing yoga.
Beekeeping, in many ways, is an ideal pursuit for physicians. It requires many of the skills you’ve already developed in looking after your patients. Attention to detail, regular checkups, the satisfaction of knowing you are doing something worthwhile. And there can be a lot honey in it. You can expect to harvest between 20 and 25 kilos a year from a single well-tended hive.
Beginners are strongly advised to join a local beekeeping club. Raising bees is not difficult -- and it’s surprising inexpensive to get started -- but you’ll have dozens of questions as you get underway and members will be more than glad to help. Another of the pluses is the people you’ll meet; beekeepers are interesting folk, a great community to get to know.
There are dozens of sites on the Internet (beware of any that wants to sell you something) and libraries of books on the topic -- people have been raising bees for over 5000 years. A recent title is Chronicle Books’ Rooftop Beekeeping: A Scrappy Guide to Keeping Urban Honeybees by Megan Paska who started a hive in Brooklyn a few years back and got hooked. Another reason to read Ms. Paska’s informative work: she makes it all sound so cool.
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