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Plight of the honeybee

A South Surrey family is helping boost honeybee populations, through hosting a beehive in their backyard
The McNabb family – Tyler

Just give bees a chance.

That’s the message behind a sponsor-a-hive program that a South Surrey family is taking part in, aimed at boosting honeybee populations in the region.

The McNabbs are in their second year hosting a beehive, after dad Tyler heard about the initiative last spring.

With a large, flourishing garden – and a keen interest, but admitted lack of knowledge about beekeeping – McNabb said he jumped at the chance to sponsor a hive in the backyard of the family’s 155A Street home.

“I thought it would be a great way to learn how to do it,” McNabb told Peace Arch News. “I was a little concerned being in an urban area, I didn’t really know what it would be like, if there would be swarms or other issues. But it wasn’t like that at all.”

The program is facilitated by 3B Honeybee, a Vancouver-based organization that provides hives to residential gardens around the Lower Mainland.

After a hive is installed, a professional beekeeper visits every few weeks for a “hive inspection” – ensuring the queen is still present and laying eggs, and no disease is present.

McNabb said he and his wife, Kelly, have taken advantage of learning as much as they can through the program, and have discovered that hosting a hive is extremely low maintenance.

“It’s a lot like gardening,” McNabb said. “You’re giving the plants – or in this case, the bees – the most ideal situation and they do everything themselves. It’s very easy.”

Art BarkerAccording to 3B Honeybee owner Art Barker, learning to take care of the hives has been a huge draw for sponsors since the program started five years ago.

“Beekeeping has become very popular, but a lot of people don’t know how to get into it,” he said. “If you can sponsor a hive and have someone come around every couple of weeks to work on it, it gives you the ability to learn as much as you care to learn.”

More importantly, Barker said, the program helps raise awareness of the plight of bees, whose populations have been dwindling over the past decade.

“The bees are in trouble, and we need the general public to be aware of that,” Barker said, noting the issue of bee health is “not a simple conversation.”

“The general consensus today is that it’s not one isolated thing that’s hurting the bee population. It’s a collection of low-level toxins, monoculture, general pollution – just everything combined.”

If sponsoring a hive isn’t in the cards – hosts pay a $350 fee for the season – Barker recommends planting bee-friendly plants that flower at different times of the spring and summer to attract pollinators throughout the spring and summer months.

Barker said attracting pollinators will help a garden’s entire ecosystem to flourish, and create a healthier environment throughout the neighbourhood.

That diverse ecosystem was part of the draw for the McNabbs, as well as helping their children Sarah and Max understand the important role bees play in the environment.

“It’s helped them to get over their fear of bees, and they get to experience the life cycle of a different creature and how they fit into the environment,” McNabb said.

To sweeten the deal, hive sponsors also get to keep some of the honey produced by the hive at the end of the summer.

Although this season’s hives have all been accounted for by sponsors, Barker said he hopes to expand the program in the coming years as the buzz around the program continues to grow.

“If you get a beehive on your block, pretty soon everyone on your block is going to be talking about bees,” Barker said. “It’s a great deal all around.”