2016 will be the third season that Sunnyside Natural Market has operated two beehives in the neighbourhood with the help of Apiaries and Bees for Communities (A.B.C). The move into beekeeping was a natural progression for us, as bees are an integral part of moving farming and food away from the unviable monoculture of conventional food systems to a more sustainable food practice. In joining with A.B.C., we hoped to further understand the role pollinators play in our food system. Three years later, we’re still learning.
I had the pleasure of attending a hive tour with A.B.C.’s founder Eliese Watson. The tour was chalk full of information, sunshine, and hands-on bee-keeping. We checked the health of two hives, made sure the queen looked happy, and noted the striking differences between male drone bees, and female worker bees - the latter making up 95% or higher of the hives population. We were even encouraged to ‘pet’ the bees to see how docile they are; no-one was stung.
Eliese began the tour by taking questions from the group, and the importance of bees in agriculture quickly became apparent. Questions inevitably lead to the predominant subject surrounding bees: colony collapse. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurs when worker bees suddenly and permanently disappear from a colony. It’s a topic that brings about a polarizing response, with some brushing it off as a non-issue and others claiming imminent armageddon.
Even at a national level, the issue is divisive. The United States began using the term CCD in 2006, although it has recognized the issue for decades. CCD has effected agri-industry to such an extent that in 2015, President Barack Obama revealed the first national strategy for improving the health of all types of pollinators.
Unlike the U.S., professional apiculturists in Canada have not classified CCD as an issue.¹ Both Canada and Australia are often cited as examples to illustrate the lack of evidence that CCD is a global issue.²