The wildflower meadow at Surrey’s Heritage Rail in Cloverdale is home to about 80,000 bees. (Ursula Maxwell-Lewis)

COLUMN: Cloverdale bees on track to success

Find out more about these ‘exquisite chemists’ at Surrey’s Heritage Rail

By Ursula Maxwell-Lewis,

Cloverdale Reporter

The Royal Beekeeper to King Charles ll is reputed to have said “A bee is an exquisite chemist.” After touring the beehives on the third floor terrace at the Fairmont Waterfront it also occurs to me that they have excellent taste in real estate. With a peekaboo view of Coal Harbour in the distance and a 2,100 square foot organic herb garden, vegetable garden, plus lilac and apple trees nearby, the 250,000 honeybees seem quite at home.

The hotel’s well-established 25-year sustainable living philosophy receives expert community support from Surrey’s Honeybee Centre and Hives for Humanity co-founder and Bee Master, Julia Common.

The Waterfront bee initiative really began in 2008. In 2009 homeless Stanley Park bees were relocated to the third floor hotel terrace apiary. An observation hive established in 2012 means that the Bee Butler (when on duty) treats guests to a tour of the eco operation which now produces 600 lbs of honey annually.

Bee tours are available to hotel guests from June to September. The hotel menus feature honey as a magic ingredient and beer drinkers can toast the Waterfront bees with Bridge Brewing’s ‘Rooftop Buzz’ Honey Kolsch.

Did you know that in order to produce a pound of honey the Waterfront bees visit over one million flowers? And you think you’re overworked!

Speaking of real estate, the Fraser Valley Heritage Rail Society in Cloverdale has maximized a strip of their land to admirable ecological advantage.

Broadcasting wildflower seeds across the scrub land under the power lines between the Fraser Valley Heritage Rail Society’s Cloverdale station and the Frank Horn Discovery Centre has successfully converted an unsightly strip of land into a thriving wildflower meadow. Black-eyed Susans, Queen Ann’s Lace, dill, brilliant yellow pom poms and assorted wild grasses now attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds to the site. A family of rabbits, discovering it was a safe haven from predatory birds, took up residence there.

When the Honeybee Centre owners got wind of the blooming wildflowers they offered to partner in the Society’s unexpected sideline to help keep it on track. As a result, a pair of queen bees now preside over two hives and approximately 80,000 bees in the floral heritage railway subdivision.

A bee and butterfly-friendly ‘hotel’ built by a FVHR volunteer offers bees a nurturing hatching place for eggs during the winter.

The honey produced is donated to the Surrey Food Bank, and rail visitors enjoy an informal multi-layered ecological beekeeping education in addition to a ride down memory lane.

Buzz over to the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway at 17630-56 Ave., Surrey, to admire this sweet volunteer-driven success story and ride the rails between Cloverdale and Sullivan every Saturday and Sunday between 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. until the end of September.

A recent Museum of Surrey event attracted quite the buzz, with many coming to an Aug. 17
A recent Museum of Surrey event attracted quite the buzz, with many coming to an Aug. 17 “Tales from the Honeycomb” event to learn more about bees.

Ursula Maxwell-Lewis

At the Museum of Surrey, “Tales from the Honeycomb” attracted enthusiastic audiences to a variety of demonstrations and crafts on Aug. 17.

Honeybee Centre co-owner Cassie Gibeau captivated young visitors with fun bee roleplaying in the MoS theatre. There was no shortage of volunteer worker bees, mason bees and, of course, a queen bee. A quick Waggle Dance lesson had the youngsters flapping, waggling and spinning in efforts to emulate busy bees collecting pollen for personal delivery to hives.

At any time of the year you can buzz over to the Honeybee Centre at 7480 – 176 Street. Their Fry’s Corner Beestro is unique and the store is well-stocked with assorted honeys and apiary supplies.

What’s coming up at the Museum of Surrey? Look for the vibrant Filipino Celebration on Sept. 21 and don’t miss going behind the scenes with Cantonese Opera on Oct. 19. Makeup demonstrations, opera costumes and music are a real treat. The Worlds of Wonder LEGO exhibit finishes at the end of September. All are free, family friendly events.

Ursula Maxwell-Lewis is a director of the Travel Media Association of Canada (BC Chapter), and the founding editor of the Cloverdale Reporter. Contact her at utravel@shaw.ca



editor@cloverdalereporter.com

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