Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Organic Beekeeping

Thanks to Les Eccles, from the University of Guelph beekeeping lab, for an excellent beekeeping workshop here on Saturday!

We held the workshop in our unfinished strawbale house addition, where we set up extra bales into risers for people to sit on. Turned out to be the perfect "farm" setting for a beekeeping workshop (see photo above)!

The workshop was packed with information, definitely whetting the appetite of would-be beginner beekeepers. He mentioned a 2-day hands-on workshop in spring, which would be the next step for someone getting serious about beekeeping (otherwise apprenticing with a seasoned beekeeper would be a good way to start). He was encouraging of urban beekeeping and there was some interest from participants in the idea of forming a beekeeping co-op, sharing equipment such as honey extractor, yard space, and also the care of the bees. Hopefully we can stay in touch through an email list to see a group like this form next spring!

A highlight was the honey tasting, with varieties of honey from Les' apiary - examples of raw and liquid (pasteurized) spring honey (harvested in June, made from flowers such as dandelion and red clover), and fall honey (harvested in September, made from summer flowers such as alfalfa). He mentioned that trees such as willow, linden and buckthorn make excellent honey, and that certainly there is enough greenspace and gardens in the city to supply bees their nectar.

Organic Beekeeping
Our group had strong interest in organic beekeeping, and although he said it's virtually impossible to become certified organic with honey (given that you need such a large radius of certified organic farmland around your beekeeping operation to ensure bees are only feeding on organic plants), you can use organic practices to reduce chemical residue in honey. Here is the contact information for those who wish to follow up on organic beekeeping:

Ontario Beekeepers' Association Technology Transfer Program
Alison Skinner, Janet Tam and Rachel Bannister

From the organic beekeeping brochure:

Why choose organic beekeeping practices?

- risk of relying on a single solution is eliminated when using a combination of treatments
- monitoring disease levels and treating when it is required saves the expense of treating for the sake of treating
- alternating treatments reduces the selection pressure for that treatment, decreasing the likelihood of resistance
- organic management eliminates the potential of residues from hard chemicals

The national standards for Organic Honey as reviewed by the Canadian General Standards Board are available at:

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