Last Spring, the City of Kingston was faced with an interesting proposal from the grass roots level, specifically whether or not to allow backyard chicken coops. Since writing about this initiative, I’ve met a few local pioneers who have taken it upon themselves to forge ahead, and harvest very their very own, homegrown eggs. As we first reported, the benefits of urban chicken keeping range far beyond providing sustenance, as they deter factory farming, improve the connection between consumers and their food source, and generate fertilizer. While some are quick to judge backyard chicken coops as an eco-fad, others are eager to commence laying their very own, golden eggs. In fact, council moved one step closer to making backyard coops a reality last night, which got us thinking about other means of urban food production. Specifically, what if Kingston embraced backyard beekeeping?
Urban apiaries are on the rise, and while beekeeping has many benefits, the main reason so many people have been talking about it lately centres around conservation. Believe it or not, the honeybee population has been fighting a massive decline in recent years, thanks to pesticides, viruses, mites, breeding practices and perhaps even cell phones. Since an overwhelming percentage of the crops we consume require pollination, which is traditionally carried out by bees, threats to honey bee population also represent a threat to our way of living. Hence, more and more urban honeybee hobbyists have started to manage hives on roof tops, gardens and backyards.
Aside from conservation and pollination, the most renowned benefits of bee keeping are honey and beeswax production, the latter being used to create everything candles, soap and various skin and hair products. As stated by the Canadian Honey Council bees and their liquid gold are fascinating.
- a colony of honey bees in summer has 50-60,000 bees
- a single bee colony can produce more than 100 pounds (45 kg) of extra honey
- honey is one of the safest foods – most harmful bacteria cannot live in honey for any length of time
- it takes one colony of honey bees (around 30,000 bees) to pollinate an acre of fruit trees
As we saw in the early days of the movement behind bringing chicken coops into the backyards of Kingstonians, public education was key. Locally, groups such as Seldom Fools Apiculture have setup workshops to educate residents about the benefits and work that goes into honeybee keeping. Further, they’ve even got a few hives for sale, to help enthusiasts get their colonies buzzing. These resources will help demystify what urban beekeeping is all about, and demonstrate that it is a sustainable practice that can safely integrated into urban areas (check out this video).
So what do you think? Should we be encouraging more Kingstonians to setup rooftop and backyard hives as a means of conservation and to assist with pollination? Would you be okay if you’re neighbour setup a hive near your house?
Thanks to Don Hankins for today’s photo.