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Rooftop hives educating college

Red River College continues to grow its urban apiaries with sweet results

It’s all about the honey — sort of.

Red River College has expanded its urban beekeeping project in partnership with Beeproject Apiaries, adding three new rooftop beehives on the school’s Notre Dame Campus. But Beeproject founder Chris Kirouac said the expansion is about far more than honey production.

“The honey is really a secondary bonus from the project,” the beekeeper explained, noting pollinators need help from urban populations to stay healthy. About 80 per cent of the Canadian population now live in cities, but Kirouac said that doesn’t mean they don’t have a role to play in pollinator health.

“We need to educate the public, the purchasing power and voting power in cities is enormous,” he said. “So we’re interested in promoting Canadian food security and this is one way to engage citizens of the city. When they see or hear about beehives in the city they are much more likely to ask questions, to think about things they can do to aid with the survival of those creatures.”

The college’s manager of sustainability, Sara MacArthur, said the school’s six hives promote biodiversity and have piqued the interest of staff and students alike.

“A lot of our staff have been interested in visiting the bees and learning about the work they do,” MacArthur said. “Having the hives on our rooftops downtown and at the Notre Dame Campus encourages that kind of accessible learning about what bees do for the environment and the benefits to creating a natural product on campus.”

Honey was extracted from the hives last week, which are expected to produce about 150 kilograms of the sweet stuff. After processing, the honey will go to Red River College’s Culinary Arts program where it will be used by students or sold at the school’s second annual farmers’ market on Sept. 15.

“We hope staff and students who purchase our ‘campus-made’ honey may stop and think for a second about how amazing it is that this delicious product was made right here,” MacArthur said. “Forget the 100-mile diet, this is the 100-foot diet.”

Students and staff were also invited to vote on a name for the honey produced on the Notre Dame Campus, finally deciding on “Creekside Honey” in reference to Omand’s Creek, which traverses the edge of the campus before flowing through Brookside Cemetery.

MacArthur said the creek’s banks are home to a variety of wild plants, flowers and wildlife, and are likely a popular place for the school’s bees to collect pollen.

About the author

Reporter

Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.

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