There’s no denying it, bees have a bad rep’ – they just do. But far from being the sting-crazy predators they’re often made out to be, bees are first and foremost misunderstood. That’s why we make education such a big part of our urban beekeeping program – because once people develop a better understanding of what they’re about, they almost always develop a newfound respect and trust for our little, buzzing beasts. In fact, more often than not, when we visit our urban beehives located at office buildings, we quickly turn curious, reluctant onlookers into avid amateur beekeepers.
So to debunk the myth of the dangerous bee once and for all, we’re laying out the roadmap for safe, fun, and engaging urban beekeeping.
First stop: understanding honey bees
Let’s start by setting something straight – honey bees are not particularly interested in us humans. Let’s face it: their daily lives are pretty busy and purposeful already – they’re quite literally on a quest to keep their colony alive and thriving by bringing in nectar, pollen, resin or water. No pressure. Unless they sense a threat or aggression, honey bees simply have no motivation to sting. In fact, not only do they not have any motivation to sting, they have every reason not to, because once they do sting, they lose their stingers, detach a part of their abdomens and rapidly die.
Talk about a disincentive.
Another challenge is that they’re often mistaken for wasps, and vice versa. And while wasps do have an interesting role to play – they’re a bit aggressive for our taste. We get it though: unless you’re passionate about pollinators, it can be difficult to see the difference between the two. So to help, here’s a little cheatsheet to telling them apart.
Differentiating bees and wasps
|Appearance||Short and hairy||Long and smooth|
|Colour||Black and gold||Bright yellow and black|
|Diet||Vegetarian (nectar and pollen)||Omnivore (nectar, pollen, insect or animal protein for their young)|
|Behaviour||Docile and focused||Entrepreneurial|
|Stinger||Barbed (can only sting once)||Smooth needle (can sting repeatedly)|
|Habitat||Hive||Paper nest (in trees) or burrow (underground)|
|Function in the ecosystem||Pollination||Insect control|
Second stop: choosing the right partner
Obviously, beekeeping comes with additional responsibilities when practiced in the city – especially if you’re responsible for maintaining the safety and quality of an office building. But with the right supplier, you can count on a turnkey service complete with an experienced team, local infrastructure, adapted facilities, and all of the required insurances, certifications, and adherence policies. With that kind of expertise and support, you can rest easy. You have everything you need for things to go smoothly.
Third stop: choosing the right bees
Did you know that bees come in all stripes and sizes?
Sorry, we couldn’t resist….
There are many varieties, with some selected for their honey-producing capacity – especially in commercial honey production – while others are chosen for their docility. That second type, of course, is the one we choose for urban beekeeping.
The Italian bee, for example, has a very mild temperament and makes for the perfect neighbour in a densely populated, urban area. They’re so gentle, in fact, that most urban beekeepers wear little to no protection!
Fourth stop: installing a hive safely
If you’re working with an experienced, trust-worthy beekeeping partner, they’ll be able to help you analyse orientation, traffic, visibility, ease of site access and exposure to the elements in order to find the very best location for your bees. As a matter of fact, if you’re thinking about bringing bees to your building, you can request a free location certificate! During a quick chat with an Urban Beekeeping Specialist, you will be able to get your own building assessment.
Pretty handy, right?
Fifth stop: keeping your bees happy and healthy
Once the bees are all settled into their new environment, it’ll be your partner’s responsibility to make sure they’re kept safe, happy, healthy and thriving – effectively eliminating any chances of aggression or stings. At Alvéole, we go beyond keeping our colonies in good shape and train our beekeepers to teach and share their passion, as each of our packages include essential educational workshops and conferences. That way, tenants not only know that bees are gentle and safe, but they feel engaged and empowered to spread the word about urban beekeeping as a safe, fun and enlightening experience that highlights the synchronicity and fragility of our entire ecosystem.
The takeaway here?
Urban beehives present no danger when installed at office buildings. Quite the contrary – with the right partner at your side, they’re a unique and novel way of getting staff, customers and tenants engaged and involved. In fact, they can even boost the perceived value of your property and help with tenant retention.
Curious to know how? Check out our article about the ways property owners can gain from hopping on the urban beekeeping bandwagon.