The Fort Garry Hotel is pressing the City of Winnipeg to change a bylaw that would let it house five bee hives on its rooftop this summer.

rooftop bees

The Fort Garry Hotel wants to get into the beekeeping business but is running into city legislation limiting the amount of hives it would be allowed to have. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

The hotel said it wants to bring more locally sourced honey to the Winnipeg market.

"They can use the honey for their restaurants, for their guests," said James Patterson, a hobby beekeeper who hopes to set up and monitor five hives which would sit on the building's roof at 222 Broadway.

"It allows them to create a program that engages their public. There's an added benefit to their guests, as well as creating a positive public image."

Patterson said the hotel is in a great location for the around 250,000 bees that would live in the colonies.

"Ideally situated around The Forks, around existing riverbanks where there is nectar," said Patterson. "It was strategically picked because of all of the park area."


Rob Currie, an entomology professor at the University of Manitoba, applies fumes to a hive during a honey extraction process. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Rob Currie, an entomology professor at the University of Manitoba, said as long as the bees are properly taken care of the risk of them stinging people downtown is low.

"You want to make sure the colonies are properly managed so they're not going to be aggressive, they're well-fed and well-maintained, they're given water so they're not going out and becoming a nuisance," said Currie, adding most people in the area won't even notice the bees. 

Hives only allowed on ag. land, city says

But before the hotel has permission to house the bees and harvest the honey, the city would have to loosen up its beekeeping bylaws and allow the hotel to manage enough hives to warrant getting into the business. Right now, beekeeping is only allowed on agricultural land.

Councillor Jenny Gerbasi said she is on board with the plan. Gerbasi pointed to similar models in other cities that have seen success.

"It's helping the environment in terms of supporting the bee population, which is something we know is important," said Gerbasi. "It's good for the downtown kind of vibrancy in a way. It's abuzz downtown, if you pardon the joke."

Councillor Brian Mayes asked city administration to look into the idea Thursday. He said having a bee apiary on the hotel rooftop would grow local food production and help address the problems facing bees across the country.

"There's also been a lot of reports on the declining bee population in Canada, so this is kind of an attempt to deal with that within the city of Winnipeg," Mayes.

A city report on the subject is expected in the coming months.