Honey of a project reintroduces bees

The McMaster Community Bee Project will tackle bee declines. HumbleBee photo.

A university partnership with a Hamilton beekeeping group is bringing bees back to campus to educate students and also provide ultra-local honey for sale.

The McMaster Community Bee Project will tackle bee declines by providing both habitat and managed native and honey bee colonies without the use of pesticides, antibiotics, or other harmful chemicals. Local organic beekeeping business Humble Bee is working with Hospitality Services and Facility Services to manage native blue orchard bee and honey bee colonies located in the area adjacent to parking Lot P. The project is championed by McMaster graduate Adam Chiaravalle and entomology professor Marvin Gunderman.

Luc Peters of Humble Bee expects about 100 lb of honey this year, and says all honey produced on campus will stay on campus. It will be available for purchase this fall, and students will receive a discount. Campus honey may also be used by hospitality services in student meals. Humble Bee only harvests surplus honey: that is, excess honey the bees themselves will not consume before the next season.

This is not the first time bees have been kept at McMaster. In 2012, medical physics and applied radiation sciences research associate and anthropology graduate student Brandi MacDonald received funding for a beekeeping educational project. But when MacDonald left Hamilton to pursue her career, the campus hives lay dormant.

“I helped out when Brandi had her hives at McMaster,” says Peters, “so I know it’s a good place for bees. A couple of people at McMaster reached out to me and requested that we bring the bees back, so we said, ‘Let’s make this happen.’”

A site assessment found no native bee populations present. In April, Humble Bee will be installing new native bee boxes for the blue orchard bee that will be managed year-round. This includes managing for disease and parasite reduction with the intention of promoting an increase in this native bee population. They also envision introducing additional native bee houses that will provide habitat for other species at the site. Proceeds from honey sales on campus will be used to support these initiatives.

Humble Bee will host free workshops on pollinators and their habitat, introductory and advanced beekeeping. Students interested in getting involved in the McMaster Community Bee Project will be able to seek training and volunteer opportunities. There has been one workshop this year with more planned for 2019-2020.

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