The rural property on which B-Y’s Honey sits is a dreamy landscape of wildflowers, strolling free range chickens and Guinea fowl, and, of course, bees. The Unger family uses the 50 acres for bee farming, for their family business, and for their geothermal, hyper-green home.
Being experts in beekeeping, it’s only natural the Ungers would use B-Y’s to spread the joy and knowledge. Ed Unger’s family has been keeping bees in Paraguay for generations. Wife Grace processes all the honey, and daughter Stella manages the business. B-Y’s hosts many classes and workshops, and has now taken things one step further in supporting local bee aficionados: The Niagara Beekeepers Club.
Says Abby Silver, store manager and co-coordinator of the club, “We’re doing this mostly to connect beekeepers with each other and with sources of knowledge and expertise, and also to create community. We can make a bigger difference if we all work together.”
Silver credits recent Bee City designations in St Catharines and Niagara Falls for some of the surge in amateur beekeepers in the region. It’s also a trend as recorded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada: the number of apiarists in the country has been climbing steadily over the last five years.
Local colonies, however, took a serious hit this spring with the severe temperature fluctuations. “It was really cold, then warm, then cold again, and the bees had trouble adapting,” explains Silver. All the more reason, she feels, to encourage beekeeping. “Our vision is to help increase the number of pollinators and show people how important bees are.”
Expected members of the beekeepers club have anywhere from one or two hives, and as many as dozens. Some are professionals, but the majority of them are passionate amateurs. “Our customers range from a young boy with his own hive to people from an older generation who might not be used to our newer, more modern equipment,” says Silver. But the bulk of their custom comes from people in their thirties and forties, from all over Niagara.
“We started the club because everyone was asking us how they could connect with other beekeepers. They wanted ways to communicate, ask each other questions, share their knowledge,” says Silver. One aspect of membership in the club is access to closed forums that allow exactly that. Members will also receive helpful monthly emails, seasonal information, discounts on materials, and bulk discounts.
Another important feature is access to monthly educational seminars, beginning in January. B-Y’s plans to bring in relevant speakers from all over the world with unique knowledge to share. Apitherapy — the use of honey, propolis, royal jelly and even venom from honeybees as a medical treatment — is increasingly popular in Germany, where the Ungers have ties. They’re excited about bringing over medical pioneers in the field for seminars and workshops.
They’re aiming for over 100 members in the Niagara Beekeepers Club. Membership is $150 and the program launches Sept. 24. Silver herself will be joining: she's very excited to be starting her own hives next spring.
And what does the name B-Y’s refer to? “Say it slowly,” says Stella: “Bee wise.”