Hive on Building 5

May 27, 2016

MacEwan University is building buzz with its urban beekeeping project 

The buzz on bees The buzz around bees within the Edmonton community has grown a lot since the launch of MacEwan University’s Urban Beekeeping Project in May.

In their first few months, the flow hives on top of Building 5 produced far more honey than expected, and raised plenty of awareness for beekeeping in the urban landscape.

All credit, of course, goes to the furry little insects that worked so hard to make this project a reality.

In addition to the flow hives on Building 5, a bee hotel was also installed nearby. A bee hotel is a resting place for solitary bees, which make up over 90 per cent of the bee population and work independently to spread pollen from plant to plant. The hotels are constructed primarily of wood and bamboo stocks, and help to increase habitat and pollination of local plants.

Urban beekeeping is part of a growing urban agriculture movement across North America that brings apiaries (bee colonies) into cities. The movement aims to help address increased food demands as the world’s population expands.

The City of Vancouver, for example, has two beehives on the roof of city hall, and in Edmonton, the Fairmont Hotel has bee hotels on the roof. Paris, however, hosts more than 300 urban bee colonies, with many major cities around the world following suit. We’re hoping Edmonton will be one of those cities.

Bees are extremely important to human survival on Earth, as they pollinate a significant amount of the food we eat, and are essential to biodiversity and plant reproduction.

According to a recent United Nations report, the top 100 crop species provide 90 per cent of the world’s food, and 70 per cent of those crops are pollinated by bees.

Studies show that honeybees and solitary bees are healthier in urban settings where there is a diversity of flowers and a minimal use of pesticides. Honeybees also produce more honey in urban settings.

Canada has 800 species of bees, and the 300 species found in Alberta are wild or solitary, making it especially important to support habitat in urban areas.

As the temperature continues to drop, a lot of people have been asking how MacEwan’s bees will survive the winter.

Summer honeybees live for approximately 35 days and winter honeybees can live for six to eight months. So, while the project team has faith in the little creatures, they’ll help them prepare for the winter by wrapping the hives in an insulating fabric within the next few weeks.

Once the warmer spring weather comes back around, the bees should be set to get back to work for another six or so months.

That means female worker bees will support the hive and its operations, from nursing brood, to storing nectar and pollen, to foraging. The male drones live solely to mate with the queen, and are ejected from the hive before winter.

With the queen bee laying up to 2,000 eggs a day, a healthy colony will have between 40,000 to 80,000 bees—one big happy family.

For more information about the Urban Beekeeping Project, email

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