RE Mountain Secondary’s Beehives

November 23, 2020
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The sustainability club of RE Mountain secondary school is proud to have our very own beehive. And it’s because of our teacher sponsors, the now graduates of REMSS, and the beekeepers of Kwantlen Polytechnic University (who have been assisting us with the beehives, gear, and a helping hand when needed) that made it all happen. In February 2020, a few club members attended a beekeeping certification class, where they learned everything we need to know about beekeeping. With a new passion for beekeeping, the club attained three of our own hives. We plan to extract and sell honey from the hives and funnelling the money back into the hives, while also preparing younger students with the knowledge they’ll need to maintain the beehive in later years. The sustainability club has taken on many projects in the past to better our community. From an aquaponics system to removing invasive species. As a club, we participate in many cleanups and strive to raise awareness of environmental issues, such as protection, conservation, preservation, and restoration of our earth.

One of our teacher sponsors and a few other students generously volunteered to get trained in a beekeeping course that former club leaders have introduced to us. Unfortunately, the pandemic had put the field portion of training on hold. Throughout the summer small groups went to visit the beehive with one of our sponsor teachers to work with the bees and continue extracting honey (the bees were already producing honey before we got them). The course is very informative, the introduction included animal health regulations, the history of beekeeping, tools, clothing, and the anatomy of a bee. We learned about installing nucs and packages, and harmful diseases and pests. Honey, nectar, pollen and pollination followed. We had covered many other interesting things such as harvesting, and the Fall and Winter management (which is when the hives are most vulnerable to the elements). Fortunately, there are ways to help treat and prevent potential threats to the beehive.

Usually, someone will go to the beehive every 2 weeks to make sure that everything is running smoothly and that the hive is in good shape. In order to do so, we have to clear a procedure to ensure the safety of the bees while handling the hive. The smoker (used from burning dry materials like old egg cartons) chases the bees back into the hive, because it triggers a defence mechanism, imitating a forest fire. We also use a hive tool to scrape off propolis (a pliable, resinous mixture created by mixing a variety of p​lant resins, saliva, and beeswax that they apply to the interior surfaces of their hives, which acts as a glue that seals parts of the beehive) and separate the frames. ​The beekeepers are provided with protective gear, which includes a helmet, veil, gloves, and coveralls. The key things we look for are that hives are continuously laying eggs, the normal checkups for diseases and pests, and to make sure the hive is strong and healthy for the upcoming seasons.​ ​There are many possible factors that could harm the beehives. Queenless hives, fast-spreading diseases and pests, and external threats like

wildlife. Especially now that recent years have shown the significant decline in the bee population, there are many things that humans and nature rely on, that bees provide.

Food security is crucial to the existence and healthy progression of humans. We need food security for our economies to grow with job creation, poverty reduction, trade opportunities, improved healthcare and overall health. Growth in agriculture has been proven to be twice as effective in reducing poverty than other ways. And Canada seems to be meeting most of the components of food security; those components being availability, access, utilization and stability. With stability, this is where our bees come to play. In Canada, we have very stable ways of farming crops. Canada ranks first and second in the world for canola and blueberry production. Both these crops rely heavily on insect pollination. Honey bees that pollinate crops in Canada also have a value of $2 billion with 44% of 41 million kg exported out.

We must always be cognizant of potential threats to our hives because honey bees are vital parts of our ecosystem, acting as highly efficient pollinators of our food crops as well as for wild flora, human livelihoods and biodiversity. The vast majority of plants (almost 90%), rely on pollinators to reproduce. They are key to the varied, colourful and nutritious diets we need and have come to expect. In fact, pollination is actually mutually beneficial to both plants, and pollinators. Since pollination results in the production of seeds, which are necessary for many plants to reproduce. Honey bees perform more than 80% of all pollination of cultivated crops. Honey bees are among the most numerous and efficient pollinator species in the world. Considering that the average honey bee can visit more than 2,000 flowers in one day, these bees greatly increase the chances of a plant producing a fruit or vegetable.

However, honeybees don’t only pollinate crops. They also pollinate wild and native plants, which contributes to all the environmental and societal benefits attributed to pollinators in general. This in turn provides food and habitat for a variety of other creatures. So the health of our natural ecosystems is fundamentally linked to the health of our bees and other pollinators. This becomes a major concern. The world has been witnessing the globally declining population of bees by billions in recent years (which affects both managed and wild bees alike). This decline is caused by a combination of stresses, such as parasites, the exposure of pesticides, monoculture farming, food sources, loss of habitat, and climate change. Bees themselves are also a part of the food chain. Several species of birds, insects, and spiders prey on bees.

Bees​ contribute to a complex, interconnected ​ecosystems that​ allow a diverse number of different species to coexist. H​aving bees at RE Mountain Secondary not only helps our local environment through pollination, but allows us to spread awareness about how bees affect food security and our daily life. There are many ways you can help, for example, providing a bee-friendly habitat in your yard or other outdoor spaces, and avoiding synthetic pesticides,

fertilizers, herbicides, and neonicotinoids in your garden. While the bee population has been climbing back up (slowly but surely), it is groups like the Sustainability club that are devoted to making a contribution to restore our planet. One bee at a time.