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A new home for honey-makers

A recently installed apiary at Durham College is now home to over 50,000 honey bees. The new project at the Galen Weston Centre for Food aims at helping bolster a strong bee population. (Photo by Joel Wittnebel).

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

Durham College has a few new patrons, somewhere around 70,000 to be exact.

As part of the Galen Weston Centre for Food (CFF), Durham College has recently installed a new apiary outside the building adjacent to its Whitby campus. The six rectangular columns stand at the edge of the large garden filled with fruits and vegetables used by the CFF in its programming and restaurant. It’s estimated that between 50,000 and 70,000 bees call the apiary home.

According to Tony Doyle, the associate dean at the CFF, the apiary has been part of the plan for the centre since it opened its doors in October 2013.

“We couldn’t do everything all at once. Each year we’ve added to the project, added to the lands,” he says. “It was always intended and it’s a natural fit. In our DNA (at the Centre for Food), we have sustainability and field-to-fork, that’s what this centre is about, the building, the lands and everything we do.”

The new project will be managed by bee keeper JoAnn Poirier, a Durham College alum with nearly a decade of experience working with the honey-making insects.

Poirier, who operates Kiss My Bees Honey in Clarington, currently cares for approximately 100 hives in Durham. She says the vision of her company and that of the CFF fit together perfectly.

“This opportunity here has just been a wonderful addition to what we already do and we’re so much about respecting the bees and what they need,” she says. “We’ve really methodically thought about what we want to do as bee keepers and sustainability is our number one focus and because of the honey bee population.”

Over the last 10 years, studies have shown a troubling decline in the honey bee population. A variety of causes have been pegged for the death of the bees including longer, harsher winters that see cold temperatures extend into the spring months, along with issues from new pesticides and loss of habitat. The decline is made more troubling by the fact that the significant pollinating efforts of bees means that one in every three bites of food we eat can be linked back to bee pollination.

“It’s very scary,” Poirier says, noting that the troubling loss was a reason she got into the practice of bee keeping in the first place. “I came out in the spring and there was absolutely no bees and I said there’s something not right here.”

With the new apiary officially installed on July 14, Doyle says that bees should create their first yield of honey in 2018, and in a good year, can produce up to 100 pounds of honey.

“Helping to bolster a strong, thriving bee population has been important,” Doyle says. “So it’s great for our students, it’s great for our college, it’s great for the Centre for Food vision.”

The bees will also serve as an education opportunity, Doyle says, and perhaps not just for those culinary and agricultural students who will work with the bees and their production first-hand.

“There’s a misconception about bees that they’re going to come and sting you and that isn’t the case…Bees are going to leave you alone if you leave them alone. Let them do their work, they’re here to work,” he says. “It is something we really want to share. We want people to understand why it’s so important and why it’s such a great addition as well.”