A veritable rainbow of honey draws shoppers to the YEG Bees Honey Co-op stall at the Callingwood Farmers’ Market. Caramel and wheat-coloured, cloudy and clear honey (all raw and unpasteurized), is on display in glass jars of various sizes and shapes, arranged in rows and labeled by neighbourhood—Capilano, Ermineskin, Forest Heights, Fulton Place, Kilkenny, McCauley West, McCauley East, and Westmount.
Jocelyn Crocker is a member of the co-op, and she points out that bees have a pretty small territory.
“The bees only forage three to five kilometers from each hive,” she says. “So the neighbourhood honey tastes like the flowers that are planted in that area.”
The YEG Bees Honey Co-op formed as a response to the April 2015 bylaw amendment legalizing urban beekeeping in residential areas in Edmonton. The new rules only permit two hives per property, and while two hives can produce more than enough honey to satisfy the sweet tooth of a single household, it isn’t enough for an Edmonton urban beekeeper to sell independently. By banding together to market their “hyper-local” honey, the members of the co-op hope not only to make their chosen hobby more financially profitable, but also to raise awareness of Edmonton’s beekeeping activity and encourage beekeeper wannabes to start hives of their own.
“Next year, we plan to sell flights of honey, where people can sample honey from different neighbourhoods,” Crocker says.
Right now, most of the co-op’s producers are grouped around the river valley in central Edmonton. They’re hoping to attract members from new neighbourhoods this year.
Kristjan Bullock, the co-op member manning the stall on market day, says the co-op consists of beekeepers of all ages and walks of life, both novices and experienced apiarists.
Bullock is an ETS driver, who kept bees illegally in his backyard for seven years before the 2015 bylaw change. At one point, he was forced to remove his hives when a neighbour complained. Bullock points out that honey bees aren’t aggressive and don’t present a problem in residential areas, and his neighbour has since changed her mind about his bees. It probably doesn’t hurt that Bullock gives her honey on a regular basis.
Those interested in becoming beekeepers themselves can start by checking out the City of Edmonton beekeeping guidelines on the city’s website. The Edmonton Urban Beekeepers page on Facebook is another good place to get informed and meet fellow enthusiasts.
Completion of a beekeeping course is mandatory for anyone wanting to start or tend a hive; the John Janzen Nature Centre, ABC Bees, Alberta Apiculture, and the Edmonton and District Beekeeping Association all offer courses. New urban beekeepers must also find a mentor with beekeeping experience—a person they might very well meet through the YEG Bees Honey Co-op.