BY: CAROLINE ROLF
The urban beekeeping group, Alvéole, wants to collaborate with urbanites to cultivate organic honey. These passionate entrepreneurs are committed to supporting bees by educating people about sustainable beekeeping on a small-scale and their importance in our ecosystem.
The Montreal-based team works to set up the hives wherever space allows, whether that is their roof, balcony, or back yard, providing people the chance to make their own natural honey and help the honeybee population.
The team provides assistance to the new beehive owners and regularly visits the hives to ensure the honeybees are in good health.
Come fall, the team extracts the honey from each hive to be enjoyed by the owners. An experience like this allows for urban dwellers to connect with the natural world and appreciate how we benefit from bees.
Alvéole has grown from two hives to two hundred in the past three years. According to their website, there are 15 locations in Toronto, a handful in Quebec City and Maine and over 250 locations in Montreal, where the company started in 2012. The expert trio, consisting of Alex McLean, Declan Jardin and Etienne Lapierre, reaches out to collaborate with urban farmers in Montreal to educate people on how to properly care for honeybees and make ethical honey.
Jardin believes cities are surprisingly a better place for bees than the countryside because of the floral diversity, lack of insect competition and ban on pesticides.
The bee population is declining at a disturbingly rapid rate due to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). This phenomenon began in 2006, when beekeepers in North America and Europe saw a massive decline in the bee population. There are many possible factors that cause CCD such as pesticides, parasites, loss of habitat, environmental stress, industrial beekeeping and malnutrition. Research has found that the common agricultural pesticide, neonicotinoids (neonics), are being absorbed by bees during pollination and carried back to the hive. The toxic chemicals spread through the hive, attacking their nerve receptors, disorienting the bees and killing them at a rapid rate. Neonics are sprayed on the flowers we buy to plant in our yards during the warmer months. Despite efforts to plant flowers that will attract bees, humans could actually be contributing to the bee problem if they don’t consider planting non-sprayed flowers or organic seeds.
A single Alvéole hive accommodates 10,000 to 80,000 bees and can produce 10 to 15 kilograms of honey for the homeowners. The rental period lasts for a year and costs $65 a month for anyone with a yard, balcony or roof looking to participate. Jardin says bees are a good way to educate urban dwellers on pollination, the hard work ethic of bees and the ways in which they get food. Eventually, the organization’s programs might expand into schools as the city’s local food movement continues to grow.
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