The Buzz on Bees in Morinville

Kerry Shima has been keeping bees for about three years on a farm south of Morinville.

by Jennifer Lavallee
Morinville News Correspondent

Urban beekeeping is now allowed in the Town Morinville. A new bylaw—the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw, which came into effect on Jan. 1 this year—allows for backyard apiaries (a structure where honey bee hives are kept) by way of a special permit issued by the Town.

Morinville resident, Kerry Shima, has been keeping bees south of Town for about three years. The beekeeper says bees are important because we need them to pollinate just about every agricultural crop we all enjoy. “The honey yield at the end of the year is a sweet bonus,” said Shima.

Getting started with beekeeping, Shima first found information online and then took courses offered by the City of Edmonton. “Honeybees are fascinating creatures, and there is an infinite amount of information and experience out there to learn from…bee colonies are very dynamic and differ significantly from one to the next,” he remarked.

For those looking to get into urban beekeeping, Shima has four pieces of advice: take a course (learn from the experts!), be realistic about costs (“beekeeping isn’t cheap,” he asserted), know it takes hard work (especially in your first year), and realize it takes time (Shima spends up to four hours a week tending to his honey bees).

“Beekeeping isn’t for everyone, but honeybees are,” noted Shima, who stressed keeping bees is a big responsibility: maintaining the colonies’ health is fundamental to the lifecycle of bees in your own hive as well as other beekeepers’ hives. Neglecting the colony can have negative consequences which can go beyond your own bee yard.

Shima said, overall, there are few—if any—downsides to having honeybees around. They are not predators (unlike wasps), and honey bees will only sting as a last resort. Also, they are not interested in human food or drink.

“I believe any hesitation to the idea is borne out of a lifetime of not understanding the species and the benefits honeybees can bring to city gardens, flowers, and plants (especially in Morinville, a Community in Bloom participant),” said Shima.

Neil Korotash, the Urban Ag teacher at Morinville Community High School (MCHS), is also incredibly interested in honey bees and says there’s a great learning opportunity to be found in keeping them.

“[It’s] just one more way to connect kids with their food system,” he explained. “[There are] lots of cross-curricular connections with biology, chemistry, environmental science, agriculture too.”

Korotash is hoping to instate a beekeeping project in his class at MCSH in the near future. The school board decided that no hives could be established on school grounds, so Korotash is trying to locate an accessible area nearby instead.

The Urban Ag teacher explained, ideally, his project would see students familiarize themselves with the required equipment and then set up a hive. After the apiary is started, the students would maintain it weekly and then collect the honey. Korotash said this project could also give rise to other learning opportunities such as entrepreneurship.

Figuring out the rules

Interest in urban beekeeping seems to be on the rise throughout the entire Capital Region. The City of Edmonton, for example, saw a fifty percent increase in permits issued last year for residents looking to keep honey bees (85 in total). The City of St. Albert is currently implementing a four-stage process for developing its Urban Beekeeping Bylaw.

Comparatively, Morinville’s approach to urban beekeeping appears to be more relaxed than those of its neighbours. The Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw is silent on any conditions an apiary must meet or rules budding beekeepers must follow.

Morinville Community Peace Officer Will Norton, who developed the bylaw (which was later approved by Council), explained that an apiary permit would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. “Every application will be unique to the owner, the property, and the location of a possible hive,” he said.

Every application will have conditions and a process before approval will be granted, explained Norton who said it’s hard to outline all of the conditions required since every property and every property type is different.

Norton did say permission from affected neighbours will be required and apiary permits need to be renewed by the Town annually. Under the Land Use Bylaw, said the CPO, honey from hives located in Morinville are not allowed to be sold.

This compares to the City of Edmonton who outlines in its beekeeping guideline very specific conditions urban beekeepers must meet, which includes developing a Swarm and Disease Control Plan, providing proof of successfully passing an accepted beekeeping course, and registering with the Provincial Apiculturist (as is required under the Alberta Bee Act). The City of Edmonton also requires beekeepers to register for a license and register an identification account with Alberta’s Premises Identification Program.

According to Norton, no permits have been issued for apiaries in Morinville, to date. “We have received two inquiries about beekeeping in Morinville, both of which were asking for the process and if it could be approved. There were no applications submitted,” expressed Norton.

Morinville has no public policies or guidelines developed on urban beekeeping.

Apiaries (structures that contain beehives) are now allowed within the Town of Morinville via a permit issued under the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw. Shima suggests anyone interested in urban beekeeping take a course on the intricacies of the hobby. (Photos provided by K. Shima).

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