A pilot project to explore urban beekeeping at Brandon University has had a sweet first year — and this weekend at Homecoming, you can take home a taste.
The ‘Bee U’ project, which attracted nationwide attention with 24/7 ‘hivestream’ video cameras that delivered a close-up look at the bees, saw two beehives mounted on the rooftop of the university’s cafeteria, Harvest Hall during the summer. After a season’s worth of foraging, the bees brought in a total of 117 kilograms of honey.
“This is a wonderful harvest, we’re so thrilled,” said Deana Smid, one of the main proponents of Bee U. “After skimming off the wax and comb, then straining the honey and packaging it for distribution, the net weight is a little less, but the most important thing is: it’s delicious!”
For a first year, which got a late start due to a lengthier-than-anticipated approvals process, the honey haul is relatively hefty. Smid hopes that with an earlier start, next year’s per-hive production could be even higher, and the university plans to increase the number of hives.
While the pilot project’s main goals are to assess whether urban beekeeping in Brandon could be successful, and to help figure out a framework for the city to support and regulate beekeepers, Smid says that making good use of the honey is also a key consideration.
“We know that we want to support food security here in Brandon, because any kind of local food production from gardening to beekeeping can help, and so we want to share the honey with our community,” she said. “We also know that we want to share the knowledge that we’re gaining, whether that’s through hands-on beekeeping or research opportunities with the bees and hives.”
Some of the honey will be shared with BU Food Services, where the hives were located, so they can use BU’s honey for feeding the campus. But the first public taste will be at BU Homecoming 2022, during a bannock-and-tea event on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 15, from 1–3 p.m. in the campus’ central Kavanagh Courtyard. The event is open to the public.
Jars of the BU honey were also originally earmarked for the BU Students’ Union food bank, which has moved to a voucher model and is no longer storing physical food donations. Instead, BU honey will be available on a donation basis at the bannock-and-tea afternoon event. Proceeds will go to the BUSU food bank as well as to continuing the Bee U pilot project next year.
Smid says there’s lots more to learn.
“Research is an essential part of this project, and we are sending honey samples for pollen testing, so we know what types of flowers our bees were foraging on,” Smid said. “There are so many wildflower gardens in the city that come through in the flavourfulness of the honey. It also appears that at least some of the bees flew right out of the city and got into some canola fields.”
The Bee U bees are overwintering at a local apiary and will return to the BU campus in spring 2023. This pilot project received funding and support from the Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation, Prairie Mountain Health (“Healthy Together Now”), and Summus as well as both the President’s Office and Office of Research Services’ Research Support Fund at BU.
- Brandon University
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