Adopting Bees in Urban Neighbourhoods.

Photo by leevee25 |

When my father retired last year, he would wax poetic about all the opportunities he was going to take advantage of, fantasizing about grand adventures and odd hobbies. One of his more farfetched ideas was to take up beekeeping. I laughed at first, but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like this pursuit could be beneficial for my dad’s spare time, my mother’s sanity, and for the planet as well.

Needless to say, it hasn’t happened yet. Beekeeping is still largely thought of as a specialized profession instead of an easily pursuable hobby with the inherent “danger” of bee stings and the assumption that keeping bees involves acres of swarming hives unmanageable for the urban homestead. But, lots of institutions and individuals have copped on to the benefits of our fuzzy little insect friends and are endeavouring to send hobby beekeeping buzzing back into the mainstream. 

From the University of Toronto’s Beekeeping Education Enthusiasts’ Society (B.E.E.S.), to the rooftops of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in swanky Manhattan and the Tate Modern Art Gallery in London, England, innovative apiarists the world over are bringing bees back to the urban ecosystem.

Change is still needed though, because cities don’t make it especially easy for people to gather honey for themselves. In Toronto, for example, stringent bylaws prohibit individuals from owning any beehives if, among other bureaucratic gymnastics, they are located within 30 metres of any public space or property line, are within ten metres of a highway, or are not a registered beekeeper.

But these obstacles haven’t stopped over 107 registered beehives from springing up all over downtown Toronto, providing homes for a whopping two honeybees for every Torontonian, insectaphobe or not.

Which is why it’s not so crazy for my dad to raise some bees. Sure, the odd sting is inevitable, but a lush, humming garden and the satisfaction of giving a home to a hardworking species are worthy tradeoffs. I’ve written my city councilor and local MP about my dad’s retirement wish and urged them to look into easing up municipal restrictions. Father’s Day just passed, what’ve you done to make your father’s wish come true? What can you do to help Mother Nature?