Red Roof Retreat was a hive of activity during last Thursday’s honey extraction demonstration.
The Host a Hive program, run by Niagara Beeway, has about 40 hives places across Niagara — two of them on Red Roof Retreat’s 11-acre property in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
This initiative, born partially out of the recent phenomenon of declining bee populations in North America, looks to disperse hives across the Niagara region, building them in a variety of locations with less risks to the bees.
The two hives at Red Roof Retreat are sponsored by the Goettler Family Foundation.
This is the second year for the Host a Hive program, and it’s been very successful, said Sandra Ozkur, the communications manager for Niagara Beeway.
“We’ve asked people to sponsor these hives, so they actually pay to sponsor the hives on their property and we provide the beekeeping service and the honey extraction,” said Ozkur.
The frames from the bee supers, which resemble square boxes, were removed to begin the extraction process.
The supers sit on top of the beehives and are used to store the bee’s honey. Each super has upwards of 10 frames inside.
Before the frames can be put into the spinner, the wax needed to be separated from the honey using a knife.
The wax is saved and can be used for other projects — like candle making.
The frames then went into a large metal spinner, where it was spun by hand.
“What happens is, the honey flies out and sticks on the wall, and it goes down, and then it comes out here when we’re ready to open it up,” said George Scott, president of Niagara Beeway, as he pointed to the nozzle out of which the honey will eventually flow.
The honey runs through two filters: the first one removes any lost bees that accidentally fell in and the second one turns the honey into a more liquid state and removes any unwanted extras that the first filter didn’t catch.
Doing a public honey extraction not only educates people, but it also provides a great sensory experience for the clients at Red Roof Retreat, said Steffanie Bjorgan, the retreat’s founder and executive director.
Red Roof Retreat provides recreational services to children and young adults with special needs.
Clients received some honey to take home and even had the opportunity to practice spinning.
“We came up with the idea of doing on site extraction so that we can educate people about the entire process, especially children who may not really know where honey even comes,” said Ozkur.
It’s a great thing to be a part of, said Bjorgan.
By placing hives on private properties across Niagara, Niagara Beeway is able to monitor and collect data on the locations that are working, and the ones that aren’t.
Spreading hives across Niagara also provides more pollination to a neighbourhood and provides a safe space for honey bee colonies.
“Within five kilometres of your hives, you’re providing neighbourhood pollination services,” said Ozkur.
It’s crucial that the hives are put on properties that are not used as commercial farms, said Scott, so that the bees have limited exposure to pesticides.
“Pesticides are by far the number one reason we’re losing insects,” he said.
He said this includes everyday pesticides homeowners use and keep in the house.
If there are 75 houses in a neighbourhood and each house has a one litre bottle of insecticide, that’s 75 litres, he estimated.
“The host of Hive is trying to find neighbourhoods that don’t do that, where it’s safe for bees. That’s where we put the bees,” he said.
However, pesticides aren’t the only threat to Niagara’s bees, said Scott.
This summer’s unusual weather has also played a big role in honey production this year, he said.
“Our honey production this year is 50 per cent less than it was last year, where we made five gallons, we made two and a half gallons,” said Scott.
He encourages anyone interested in hosting a hive on their property to go to niagarabeeway.com/host-a-hive.html.