PEI

Where's the buzz? Demonstration beehives off to slow start

Visitors to two demonstration beehives in Charlottetown may have noticed a how quiet the structures have been this spring. Plexiglass windows in the structures are papered over, and no bees are coming and going through their special doors.

'We didn't know what the magic balance was'

There are still no bees at the Urban Beehive Project, but managers hope to install some next week. (Sara Fraser/CBC)

Visitors to two demonstration beehives in Charlottetown may have noticed a how quiet the structures have been this spring. Plexiglass windows in the structures are papered over, and no bees are coming and going through their special doors.

The Urban Beehive Project, by Nine Yards Studio architects Shallyn Murray and Silva Stojak, was created last summer in the Legacy Garden behind the Farm Centre with a $2,500 micro-grant from the City of Charlottetown and launched last fall.

It's designed to be a multi-year project to educate visitors on the importance of honeybees in the environment. 

Finding 'the magic balance'

"This season we were talking with our beekeeper, and he realized he had some losses with his bees, and he suggested we somehow try to find another source for our bees," explains Stojak. 

The project's volunteer beekeeper, John Burhoe of Murray Harbour North, P.E.I., removed the small hives of bees for the winter, but many of them died over the winter. In hindsight, Burhoe said, the colonies should and could have been a little larger. 

"We didn't know what the magic balance was," between safety for the public and survivability for bees, Burhoe said, noting beekeeping is a delicate balance. 

"It wasn't their fault," said Burhoe of the die-off, noting he was late getting the bees stored away for the winter with enough food. He was then unable to provide a fresh supply of bees this spring. 

"We should probably have bees in mid-May or end of May, so that's how behind we are," said Stojak this week. 

Backup bees

After calling around for replacement bees, Stojak was finally offered two large beehives free of charge from Wyman's Blueberries, and said she hopes they arrive next week. 

The clear plastic windows of the demonstration beehives are papered over, and the trays for the bees to enter and exit are empty. (Sara Fraser/CBC)

"We feel that we still have a good summer ahead of us," Stojak said. "It is a little bit of a delay, but since we are not in the business of producing honey — we are more demonstrational beehives … I think we have to deal with reality."

The idea behind the shapely, eye-catching structures is that architecture and design can draw more attention to bees and what they do than traditional hives, Stojak explained.

Project to expand

Nine Yards has now received a $25,000 grant from TD Bank's Friends of the Environment Foundation and plans to create more interpretation for the beehive project. 

Architects Silva Stojak (left) and Shallyn Murray (right) pose last July with builder Brodye Chappell at one of the beehives at Charlottetown's Legacy Garden. (Stephanie Brown/CBC)

They'd like to educate not only the public, but also more potential beekeepers, in the joys of the profession, Stojak said. 

Burhoe would love to see more beekeepers — right now on P.E.I. there are seven or eight professional beekeepers, each looking after about 500 colonies, with a peak population of 70,000 bees per colony. 

The architects are hoping to have the addition done by the end of the summer. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sara Fraser

Web Journalist

Sara has worked with CBC News in P.E.I. since 1988, starting with television and radio before moving to the digital news team. She grew up on the Island and has a journalism degree from the University of King's College in Halifax. Reach her by email at sara.fraser@cbc.ca.

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