Toronto Botanical Garden bee on a purple flower

How I Became an Urban Beekeeper

I work in a very different environment from most people. I work in a garden, the Toronto Botanical Garden. Working here has provided me with many opportunities. It’s a beautiful place and the people really care about what happens here. Strange and wonderful things happen here. And still I was happily surprised when we were told at a staff meeting, that we would be receiving a beehive in the spring. A beehive? Really? And would any of us like to be involved in the care and keeping of the bees? Heck yes, sign me up. Just like that, I was committed to the bees.

Starting up a beehive is no small feat. A lot of planning and preparation are required. We were lucky to have had some amazing experts on hand from the Toronto Beekeepers Co-operative to guide us. Toronto Botanical Garden is a teaching facility, so of course we used this opportunity as a teaching experience. We put together an adult educational program that included everything we (and you) would need to start, and safely manage, a honey producing beehive.

  • Session 1: Intro to Bees and Hive Building
  • Session 2: Designing and Planting a Pollinator Garden
  • Session 3: Planning the Season and the Spring Hive Check
  • Session 4: The Summer Hive Check
  • Session 5: Honey Harvest
  • Session 6: Beekeeping Season Wrap-up; Putting the Bees to Bed

(We’ll go into detail about each session as we go through the seasons or click here for the course summaries)

I’ve always been one of those girls who would swat and squeal when things flew at me (it’s true). Not such a good idea in a bee yard. I was quite relieved when I put on the beekeeper’s suit. I felt safe and protected. In the end it wouldn’t really be an issue, but in the beginning it was critical.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned from/about the bees…

  • bees have different personalities (our Italian bees are the sweetest)
  • bees are very sensitive to moods (much like horses)
  • bees prefer calm, quiet, and gentle movements
  • bees are alarmed by dark colours (I try not to wear jeans during a hive check)
  • spending time with bees calm me and brings me joy
  • bees really don’t want to sting you — they die if they do

At the end of our first season, we entered our honey into the competition at the Royal Winter Fair where we finished in 6th place (95/100), which garnered us a pink ribbon.  We’re hoping for another great result this year. Wish us luck!

Last Photo – Photo Credit Rannie Turingan

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