All posts in Projects

  • YMCA Youth Internships

    Ben, our second youth intern from YMCA, for Feb-April 2018, just completed his last day, and wrote up some thoughts on his experience to share. Building skills, sharing experience, and working together in community: this is the good stuff! 

    If are able to donate to support opportunities like this, please see our donate page!

    Above: Ben with Sarah and Cassie, sharing a cinnamon bun in celebration!

    Ben’s post follows:

    Terrific is the only word I can use to describe my time at Hives for Humanity.
    I’ve had a great time working with this amazing group of people and learning more all the time. 
    If I had to choose one thing that I will take foward with me it would have to be bottling honey. I have found it really enjoyable and find that it relaxes me and accents my skill for attention to detail perfectly.
    I remember one day when a deaf man came in looking for some candles and when I realized he was deaf it caused me to reevaluate how I had been interacting with everyone who came through the door. As I was thinking about how I talked to people and discovered that I used too many meaningless words (like, yeah, um). And have been working on making my speech patterns easier to follow. 
    From here I’m hoping to find a job in garden/farm work. A passion that I wouldn’t have been able to exercise without my experience at the Hastings Urban Farm.
    In closing I would just like to say how special Hives for Humanity really is and I look forward to working with everyone in the future.
  • Hastings Urban Farm Update

    THE HASTINGS URBAN FARM: urban farming, community empowerment, pollinator forage and habitat!

    From 58 W. Hastings & 117 E. Hastings, to 501 Powell and beyond! The Hastings Urban Farm is a multi-site partnership between the PHS Community Service Society and Hives for Humanity Society, supported by the City of Vancouver.

    The sites have rich histories of people, programming and partnerships, which we are proud to honour and share. Please download and read the notice below for updates on the Hastings Urban Farm (58 W. Hastings, 501 Powell) and Hastings Folk Garden (117 E. Hasting) sites.

    > Download  + Read the Hastings Urban Farm Update (PDF)

    All sites and programs take place on the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.

    The Place Where The Maples Grow. Vancouver.

  • Fun and Funds!

    You are invited to our Fundraiser!

    Plan to attend this casual (free) fundraiser event coming up on April 3rd from 6-9pm at Luppolo Brewery
    in partnership with the incomprable EartHand Gleaners Society.

    There will be a silent auction – with unique, gorgeous, hand made items from the Salmon Leather Guild and Abeego Weavers Guild

    There will be food and drink specials, so bring friends!

    There will be storytelling – featuring special guest Lori Weidenhammer, author of “Victory Gardens for Bees.

    All funds raised will go to support inclusive, shared programming to connect people to community, nature and traditional skills.

    >> More info here or see our april3poster

  • YMCA + H4H: Youth Employment Program!

    We have been building our connection to youth with a YMCA Youth Employment Bootcamp – this partnership emerged from a Youth in Social Enterprise Study we participated in, and we are now hosting our second practicum youth. It’s been fun getting to share our lively, busy and unique work space with these program participants. Ben has taken part in all aspects of our operations, and it’s been a pleasure getting to share the work we love with him, and have him contribute his time, energy and skills too! We’ve asked each participant to contribute to our blog, and we’re pleased to share his guest post below.

    Guest blog post from Ben:

    I was first formally introduced to Hives for Humanity through the YMCA’s training program called the “Youth Employment Bootcamp” which is a program for helping a group of roughly twelve 15 – 30 year-olds find employment, whether it’s their first job or a complete change in career.

    I had heard of Hives for Humanity (H4H) only in passing but, upon researching it, I found out how closely my interests aligned with H4H I was super interested!

    I was very apprehensive before starting to work in the Downtown Eastside as I had lived in the west side my whole life and had heard of many stories about confrontations and how dangerous the people were. But as I’ve worked here and gotten to meet quite a few people who call the DTES home, I have become more and more comfortable with the neighbourhood and the individuals who are more often than not victims of circumstance.

    It was amazing working on the seed library with a big group of about seven people and seeing the efficiency of a group so big with good communication.

    In my experience with filtering honey I’ve discovered just how precise and thorough you have to be in order to ensure no particles of wax or other contaminates make it into the honey bottling process.

    So far, working on the farm has been fun and rewarding to see and better by the end of each session. However it has also been wet and freezing most days which definitely makes working outside more challenging!

    It’s been incredibly interesting getting to see candles being made, and having the chance to make some candles myself has been fun and engaging.

    I had heard about how important seed saving is but had no experience with it. Not only has the seed library program taught me how to separate the seeds from their plants but it’s also taught me about the plants themselves – like how milkweed fluff is used for pillows and weaving.

    Honey can be drastically different from neighbourhood to neighbourhood – things like consistency and flavour are often affected and this is because of the various types of plants.

    Overall, I’ve really enjoyed my time at H4H and I look forward to working with everyone more in the future!

  • PechaKucha Night Vol. 44

    PechaKucha Nights are informal and fun gatherings where creative people get together and share their ideas, works, thoughts, holiday snaps — just about anything, really — in the PechaKucha 20×20 format. Every PechaKucha Night city is hosted by a local organiser, who has an annual Handshake Agreement with PechaKucha HQ to run their event series. This ensures that each PechaKucha Night is relevant to their city- and can create a unique platform to uncover that city’s creativity. Learn more here:

    In case you missed the sold out Pecha Kucha Vol. 44 evening, you can watch the recordings of all the speakers via the link below!

    PechaKucha Vol. 44:


  • The Power of Bees: Team building workshops!

    Are you looking for a unique and unforgettable experience for your team/group? Want to connect to the natural world around you and learn something new?

    As always, nature is the best teacher – bees have a way of capturing our curiosity – through their vibrations, communication, and magic! Delving into the world of bees with our enthusiastic beekeepers can ignite imaginations, spark inspiration, and create moments of reflection as we appreciate the lessons of these incredible creatures.

    Beekeeping is an experience like no other. Our presentations and workshops explore all aspects of community beekeeping, offering historical, biological, social and cultural insights. Get in touch with us to talk about your team, your goals and how we can create a flexible, fun, and engaging experience!

    We are more than beekeepers. Bees are much more than honey.

    > Pollinator & Community Health
    > Communication & Team-building
    > Mindfulness, Self-Worth & Community Pride
    > Connection & Reciprocity
    > Advocacy

    > Therapeutic Hive Tour & Team Building Experiences
    > Speaking Engagements
    > Classroom Presentations
    – with portable demonstration hive
    – with bee-centric activity/craft

    To hear what the team at Routific Solutions thought of their hive tour, check out this article from Huffington Post

    Excerpt from article: “From behind my beekeeping veil, time seemed to dribble to a gooey halt and I became engrossed in the bees that were crawling, floating, darting and taking flight in a seemingly frenetic yet purposeful way. This heightened awareness allowed me to experience an intense focus that rarely arises in me, a modern, multi-tasking human being.”

    To read full workshop options, full descriptions, view pricing and schedule, download our Workshop Info Package PDF!

    Any questions or ideas – please get in touch:

  • Volunteer Opportunities

    Thank you to all the volunteers for your willingness to share your time, energy, skills and joy with us! We are seeking committed volunteers for the following positions. Please click on the titles below to download PDF with full descriptions and details on how to apply.

    Project-based Photography
    Project-based Videography
    Seed Library Coordinator – positions filled for 2018, thank you!
    Event Support
    Farm/Garden Support

    Not seeing a position for you or want to share/gain another skill? Email us to discuss:

    – Access a 20% discount on our honey and merchandise after 10 hours of volunteering
    – Invitations to all of our community gathering events such as end of harvest lunch
    – Meet new people and be a part of a society that encourages connections through beekeeping!

    – All volunteer positions are unpaid
    – Availability to work weekdays, some weekends may be needed
    – Minimum 3 months commitment is preferred
    – Additional terms to be mutually discussed

  • Save the Date: Beekeeper’s Journey Event January 20th

    A Beekeeper’s Journey: January, 20th 2018

    Join us for a beecentric evening of art, music, complimentary canapés, and story-telling

    with special guest speakers Mark Winston, Governor General’s Literary Award winner and internationally recognized professor of apiculture and social insects; Renée Saklikar, award-winning poet and writer of thecanadaproject; Paul Van Westendorp, provincial apiculturist for British Columbia; Ali McAfee, author for American Bee Journal and PhD candidate; John Gibeau, President of Honeybee Centre and co-founder of the Bee World Project; Julia Common, Master Beekeeper, BCHPA instructor and Chief Beekeeper at Hives for Humanity; and Lindsay Dault, Master Beekeeper, BCHPA instructor and owner of Urban Bee Supplies Inc. & Urban Bee Honey Farm.

    January 20, 2018
    6:30 PM – 9:30 PM
    $69 per person

    Click here for Eventbrite Link & Tickets



  • Winter Break 2017

    We are taking a break from all programming Dec 15 2017 – Jan 2 2018!

    It has been another incredible year working with people and pollinators to enhance community, foster self-worth, and create meaningful opportunities for work and connection … all through the bees!

    We wish you the best over this winter break, as the solstice turns dark back towards light, we continue to learn and grow together.

    Thank you for being a part of our 2017, we look forward to beekeeping, gardening, woodworking, honey tasting, researching, celebrating, storytelling with you in 2018!


    The team at Hives for Humanity 

  • The Gastown Foodie

    The Gastown Foodie has hit shelves, including ours, of locally owned and operated restaurants and social enterprises in our community! This beauty of a book share more than just recopies, it shares the passion for community behind each ingredient, the power of food to connect, heal and inspire. 

    We are very proud to be featured, and if you purchase your copy from us, either through Bee Space or at one of our winter markets (ie. the upcoming Strathcona Winter Market Nov 25) 100% of the proceeds support our work! 

    Thank you to everyone who helped make our pages in the book pop: especially to our BOD member Sheri Weichel for her work in developing our delicious recipe and to Jim, Kevin, Melanie and the community gardeners and beekeepers for sharing their gardens and apiaries through the photos.

    Thanks to Chris and Brad for sharing our story in such a unique way. You can learn more about the book and the other features here!


  • Reflections

    It’s the last day of October, and as we shift into another month, as our bees cluster up to keep warm, as we hunker down into office work and planning for 2018, we have this reflection from one of our summer interns, Thea Sturdy. Thea was a support to the Hastings Urban Farm and Bee Space in the first part of her internship, and then moved into full on beekeeping support in our country and city yards in the later months of her time with us, as part of the Queen Rearing team. Thank you Thea for all of your work and support, and for this piece reflecting on the impact for you and for our community.



    Hello everyone, let me introduce myself. My name is Thea and I’m a UBC agroecology student. I’ve had the opportunity to work with Hives for Humanity through an internship over the last 6 months, and now that I’ve completed the internship and had a chance to reflect on the time I spent working as part of the H4H team, I would like to share my experience.

    I can say with confidence that I had a very positive internship experience. I always felt welcomed, engaged, interested, useful, valued, and challenged, whether it be at Beespace, on the Hastings urban farm, or in the apiary. I’m grateful that Sarah, Julia, and Cassie gave me the opportunity and encouraged me to take on a learning and leadership role at H4H rather than be the type of intern who buys coffee and runs errands.

    In addition to communication, technical, and organization skills, my beekeeping skills have come a very long way since January. I am a new and mainly self-taught beekeeper, only having 2 seasons under my belt. By spending over 100 hours in the field inspecting colonies alongside the best mentors, Julia and Phil, I am now able to spot queens easily, detect signs of disease, quickly survey a hive’s food stores, identify problems in the colony, graft larva, and overall am a much more competent and confident beekeeper. Using the skills I have learned throughout the year, I was able to build my own personal apiary from 7 colonies that overwintered into a successful and thriving 21 colonies. I now also have the confidence to take risks in my apiary; I will be experimenting with overwintering my very first nucleus colonies and raising my own queens next season.

    This internship has made me realize that the keystone to becoming successful in whichever path you choose to follow is to have the confidence that you can do it. Above all, my time at H4H has fostered self-confidence in me in a way that I have never before experienced. I am excited about my future in the world of beekeeping, because it has ignited a passion in me that I have never before had for anything. Now that I’ve started building the important skills needed to succeed as a beekeeper, I truly believe that I can make a successful business out of it someday.

    This experience has also pushed me to reach out to more people in my own neighborhood to create a more tight-knit and inclusive beekeeping community. I recently re-connected with my 3rd grade teacher, who as it turns out, has been a beekeeper herself for 40 years. We have organized a community meeting and potluck to get to know other beekeepers in our own community, and our provincial bee inspector will be attending as well. This is a step that I never would have taken had I not been inspired by the networking and partnership-building that Hives for Humanity encourages.

    Above all, I have absolutely no doubt that the confidence that I have gained, whether it be in my leadership skills, technical skills, communication skills, or beekeeping skills, through this internship opportunity will make me much more successful in my future endeavours. I would like to thank Sarah Common, Julia Common, Cassie Plotnikoff, Phil LaFlamme, and all other members of the Hives for Humanity team for making my experience so rewarding and enjoyable.


  • Seed Library ‘Zine

    The DTES Seed Library (located in the Carnegie Library at Main and Hastings) is a place where folks in the community can access food, medicinal and pollinator-friendly seeds to grow, share and enjoy. Many of the seeds are grown, shared and harvested by community farmers at the Hastings Urban Farm (58 W. Hastings St and 501 Powell St sites) and Hastings Folk Garden – a place where community members in the DTES can access low-barrier training and employment grounded in nature, community and care for our urban ecosystem.

    In partnership with many community groups, we developed a “Seed Starting Tips ‘zine” to provide some useful information for gardeners accessing these seeds. ‘Zines are self-published, small-scale works often made of recycled content and reproduced by photocopier. Ours is a combination poster/booklet and it’s now available free for download to share far and wide.

    Happy planting!

    > Learn how to fold the ‘zine here

    > Download the DTES SEED LIBRARY ZINE (11 x 17 PDF)

    > More ‘zine inspiration here

  • Podcast Land!

    Hello Friends,

    We’ve been talking bees, people & community on some podcasts, take a listen!

    The PolliNation Podcast with Andony Melathopoulos – out of Oregon State University

    Engaged Citizen X with Jamie-Leigh Gonzales – our Bee Space drop in yoga teacher (Thursdays at 7:15!)


  • Harvest Celebration

    Hello Friends of Hives of Humanity!

    We are excited to share our Annual Report from 2016 with you AND to invite you to come celebrate with us at our Hastings Urban Farm location at 58 W Hastings, this coming Thursday Aug 31st 1pm.

    Fairmont Waterfront will be joining us to offer delicious food in celebration of the honey harvest and all the work and love that has gone into growing our gardens and community.

    Our partners at Culture Saves Lives are sharing the space with us to honour lives lost in the Overdose Crisis, with song and word and community gathering. The power of gardens and food to bring people together never ceases to amaze.


  • Loss and Hope

    Our social work practicum placement Sam has been working with us for the past three months, and leaves on Thursday. Working with her has been a pleasure, learning alongside her and supporting her in exploring social work engaged in community, connecting through nature, with strength based programming.

    We are living and working on the unceded lands of the Coast Salish peoples, in the context of concurrent (and preventable) homelessness and opiod overdose crises. Keeping hope alive, when there is so much potential for despair, is more important and more challenging than ever.

    The following is a reflection, written by Sam, around the loss of a community member who was an advocate, leader, teacher and hope carrier for many of us; she will not be forgotten and we will seek to keep her work and words alive, moving together towards social justice, inclusion, and the honouring of all lives.


    A community leader died last week. Tracey Morrison was a well known figure in the community. The Bannock Lady. Tracey was loved and respected. Tracey held important positions in progressive, valued community agencies. Tracey was highly engaged in her community, in a multitude of ways. Tracey was knowledgeable and giving, wise, funny and brave. In a community meeting about community ethics and media production last Wednesday night, Tracey sat across the table from me. I took notes for the meeting and after Sarah gave a short welcome to the group she requested we go around the table and introduce ourselves and speak to why we felt compelled to join the conversation. Tracey sat to the left of Sarah and Sarah asked her to start us off. Tracey’s name is the first on my list in my notes, the different agencies she was there representing listed beside her name: President of Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society (WAHRS) and Board Member at Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU).Tracey spoke about how WAHRS had struggled with people outside of the agency and the community wanting to come in to do research and how the agency had been working to address the issue. She had copies of the policy and forms WAHRS had drafted and were using and she offered them to the group as a resource.

    Later in the meeting, a DTES community member and participant at Hives for Humanity spoke of a past experience he had with the media. He told the room that many years ago he was shooting up in an alley way when a news crew began filming him. He said nothing to the crew while they filmed him. He told us his friend asked him why he didn’t speak to the news crew and that his friend viewed it as a missed opportunity as he considered him a good spokesperson for the community. He told us that he had plenty to say but because the news crew didn’t ask him anything he said nothing. Now he says, years later, whenever that station needs to show a clip to go with a story about addiction they pull up the film of him shooting up in the alley. ‘I am their stock footage for drug addict’ he told us. His story, and others shared that night, touched me deeply. Not because the man telling it was now, years later, ‘clean’ and sober and haunted by this old reminder of a different time but because this man is a human being and regardless of his life circumstances he is as worthy of dignity and respect and we are all people first. I was moved because this man, and others that night, spoke of not being asked the right questions and not being listened to when giving the right answers and yet they were still here at a community meeting using their voices. I continue to be astounded and humbled by the resiliency and sense of community in the DTES.

    There is no denying the power of the media. How they choose to present a topic or issue can have an impact on public opinion. The continued portrayal of the opioid crisis as a problem of substance users, who are ‘other’ and thereby ‘lesser than’ to everyone else perpetuates the stigmatization of substance users and excuses society at large for not addressing the deeper problems in our communities. Community meetings like the one I attended are a great step toward discussing how communities can both protect themselves from dangerous media exposure and how to use media/research projects to the benefit of the community.

    On Friday night, two nights after that community meeting, Tracey died. Despite her work dedicated to educating the community about overdose prevention, about using safely, she used and she died. I didn’t hear about her death until Monday night just before bed.

    Monday was kind of a funny feeling day at Hives for Humanity. We did some gentle work. I worked alongside two lovely participants, one a typically fast and somewhat frenzied worker one a deliberate, slower worker. We used pulleys to lower down the drying racks (made from trellis) from the ceiling and we undid the bundles of lemon balm and mullein that had been drying, harvested from the garden. The rack was specifically made for this function and it works beautifully. We crushed the herbs and stored them for future use and gifts. Later that day a bag of mullein would go to Culture Saves Lives. Sarah seemed in her own world tidying the kitchen area, organizing, cleaning, making right and working on making healing salves from stuff harvested from the garden and the hive. We listened to a Fleetwood Mac album, twice. Both sides. Then one of the women and I walked down to the farm to harvest raspberry leaves, mint and more mullein. On the way she was more talkative then usual, to me anyway. She was sort of trying to tell me about someone dying, a woman who used to make Bannock, but no other details. Later that night I was checking social media before bed. I saw a post, a CBC news post, saying that Tracey Morrison had died. I did a double take. I checked the name. I looked at the face. I pulled out my notebook and checked my minutes from the meeting. I let it sit with me for a few minutes. I have very little experience with death. No one close to me has died. I have never attended a funeral. I don’t know about death and I am here in a neighbourhood that knows too much about death. I am in a community where people experience the death of people they know well, often. I am not sure what is supposed to happen, what is supposed to be felt.

    I thought about Sarah and wondered if she knew. She didn’t say anything to me. There have been 2 other deaths while I have been here that I heard about but didn’t tell Sarah about. Both times after she found out I wondered if I should have told her. I am not always sure who knows who and have come to realize just how small this community in a vast city really is. I wondered if I should text her and if I wondered if I wanted to initiate this conversation for my benefit or hers. I decide I should not text. I decided that if it happened Friday night then Sarah probably already knew. It would explain the feeling at Hives for Humanity today. If she doesn’t know, I decided, I don’t want to convey that message through text. It can wait. Tomorrow morning.

    Tuesday morning Sarah brings a pot of coffee to her desk. I tell her I saw the post on Facebook. Sarah tells me that social media is how she found out about her friend Tracey dying, someone tweeted it. This is hurtful to Sarah. I am thankful for Sarah sharing her perspective with me. I think about the way we share information and news with one another through social media and how we must be thoughtful of our audience. We need to ask ourselves for what purpose we are passing along stories and weigh the costs and benefits of posting news, particularly news stories that involve injury or death. I think about how much privilege I have, never having experienced the death of someone I was close to, professionally or personally. Thinking about how alarmed and taken aback I was to learn through social media about the death of Tracey Morrison, not knowing her at all, I can easily understand that it must have been painful for people who knew Tracey to learn of her death in this way. As a society we have become fairly desensitized to sharing grim stories at the click of a button. Whether we aim to be the first person to share a breaking story or we want to draw attention to a serious issue and/or honour a beloved community member, we need to remain cognizant of others. We need to think of people. We need to examine our use and usage of media and how well it is serving our society. Stories need to be told but who ought to be telling them? Tracey, I am told, had a favourite saying and it is one I am fond of as well, ’not about us, without us’. Who are the storytellers in our community and how do we help them to tell their stories?

    It is expected that hundreds of people will come to the memorial happening in the park on Friday. All week people are preparing, getting ready. There are various posters up around the community. Some are telling people to come to Oppenheimer Park on Friday, some are saying we must end the opioid crisis with a picture of Tracey’s face, some are letting community members know that particular services expected to happen on Friday are cancelled because of the memorial. People are stopping and chatting in clusters their conversations all ending with ‘see you at the park on Friday’. I overhear Sarah talking to two women at the farm about the park on Friday. They showed up for a shift today after a long time of not coming. The three of them agree that there will be a big crowd at the park on Friday. One of the women says ‘we don’t want the media there’.


    Thank you Sam, for this beautiful and powerful reflection, honouring this community and its members.

    Thank you, Reader, for sharing your time through this post.

    Thank you Tracey, for all you have gifted this community. You are loved and missed.

  • Bee Space Update

    Hello Bee Spacers!

    We love your visits, talking bees and community, tasting honey and smelling candles, connecting people and pollinators.

    With beekeeping season at a high, and all of our resources deployed to hives, gardens and workshops, we are taking a break from our retail hours (which have been on Mondays and Sundays in the past) – Bee Space is CLOSED on SUNDAYS and MONDAYS for retail.

    Please visit one of the wonderful Vancouver retailers listed on our locations page for honey or candles, or if you are interested in a custom order, please contact Cassie for more information!

    We are moving to a monthly open house system, and will keep you posted on more as that idea develops.

    From the whole team, thank you for your support and encouragement, we are very proud of our work and honoured to have the opportunity to work with bees, plants and people in community.

  • Cathedral Square

    A few updates to our Cathedral Square Project with Downtown Vancouver BIA and Parks Board Vancouver:

    1. Planting Day 1 was a fun day of adding soil, seeds and pollinator friendlies to the planters at the back of the park (photos below).
    2. We are having a second planting day on May 19th 12pm-1pm – all welcome (see poster below).
    3. The apiary enclosure and then the bees will be arriving in early June! And then we can share the joy of urban beekeeping and work to enhance the community in the Square through the inclusive and supportive culture we build around our hives.

    Buzz! Bloom! It’s Spring (finally) in Vancouver!

  • “Getting to Green”

    The grant cycle is a challenging one. From letters of intent and various stages of applications, through delivering projects and reporting on outcomes and lessons, there is a lot to communicate, manage and deliver. We have been fortunate to have the support and encouragement from Vancouver Foundation and the City of Vancouver over the past four years; in fact Greenest City was the first fund to give us major support for our work!

    This report from the Greenest City Fund, fresh off the press, takes a look at the process and learnings from the last four years, and we are pleased to be able to share it with you. Check out the colour spread on p14 of three of our community beekeepers absorbed in a colony inspection at the Hastings Folk Garden!

    Download the report, free, here:

    Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 4.24.16 PM


  • Knowledge-Building Series

    Announcing our Intermediate Level, Knowledge-Building Series for Urban Beekeepers, with Hives for Humanity Chief Beekeeper, Julia Common

    This course was designed for intermediate-level beekeepers who want to take their bee knowledge to the next level. We’ll go beyond the basics of keeping bees, and dive deeper into understanding bee behaviour, communications and interactions between you, your bees and the urban environment. These courses will increase your confidence as a beekeeper to interpret colony behaviour and know how, when and why to respond.

    Choose a single course that fits your needs, or join us for the entire series. Each 2-hour evening session takes place at the Hives for Humanity Bee Space, and includes  soup + bread to start, followed by in-depth presentations, lively discussion, Q+A periods, course materials, and a field day in the early Summer. Meet other beekeepers in the city and learn how to help your bees thrive – for the health of people and pollinators in the city.

    To purchase please visit our online store, via Square. If we are sold out please email to be added to our  wait list.

    1. Thursday, January 26, 2017 – Dialogue: The wonder of the honeybee!
    2. Thursday, February 2 – The Bee Calendar: A year in the life of a colony and its beekeeper
    3. Thursday, February 9 Healthy Bees: what the look, smell, sound and behaviours of bees can tell you
    4. Thursday, February 16 – The Art of Beekeeping: problems and problem solving
    5. Thursday, February 23 – Varroa Strategies: monitoring and management tools + techniques
    6. Thursday, March 2Population Management How + Why: Growth, splits, queens, swarms and harvest

    Hives for Humanity Co-founder and Chief Beekeeper Julia Common
    Hives for Humanity Bee Space, 580 Powell Street, Vancouver BC – field days to take place at the Hastings Urban Farm in Vancouver, BC.
    Time: Courses from 6:30pm – 8:30pm (soup served at 6:00pm, doors open at 5:45pm) + one field day (see below)
    12 per session
    Price: $45 per session or $240 for all six
    >> Includes access to one field day in May, June, or July (details TBC)
    >> Includes a 30 minute optional phone consultation; in-person hive visits and ongoing mentorship available at a rate of $50/hour
    h4h_intermediate_workshop_series_web*Please click on image to enlarge*


  • Bee Audacious – a dialogue inspired report

    Bee Audacious

    Audacious visions for the future of bees, beekeeping and pollination

    A dialogue based, invitational conference, held in Marin County at the Marconi Conference Centre, Dec 11-13, 2016.

    This report, by our Chief Community Officer and Co-Founder, Sarah Common, is shared with the hope that it inspires you to connect to nature and to community, through the bees, which are such wonderful vectors for building hope. It shares the story of her journey to the conference, as well as her thoughts inspired by the conference itself.


    Bee Audacious, a dialogue inspired report, by Sarah Common:


    I don’t travel with ease, unless I travel with purpose.

    I moved a few times when I was young, from Quebec to England, then to Scotland, and lastly to Vancouver, British Columbia. I came to BC in 1997, but I never really felt at home here until my return to this coast in 2005, after spending a year in upstate New York. I’ve been in various neighbourhoods of Vancouver since, moving from UBC gradually east through our city. Building my community and connecting to this place, to this land, has been my focus. And finding ways to foster connection for others, through land and food, has been my passion.

    So I don’t travel easily. I think there is some fear of losing my place again. And there is sadness when I find myself in places of disconnection where I do not have the depth of understanding to effect change or support hope. When I travel I like to do it with purpose, with an impact in mind, with a contribution to make. That purpose keeps me engaged, builds connection, and inspires me to share and grow. So, when I was invited to travel to California and participate in a conference being put together by fellow beekeepers, with a name that spoke of a creative and innovative intent, to Bee Audacious, I was in.

    It was hard work getting things ready to leave, especially at a time when the community we place our core work in is facing concurrent housing and opiod crises. The two weeks leading up to leaving were intense: the Downtown Eastside is losing community members to overdose daily, and hope is being severely tested. In November alone in BC, 128 people died of overdose. The week before I left one of our community beekeepers lost two friends to overdose in one day. The front line workers, including current and former drug users, nurses, emergency services, support and mental health workers, are working at their emotional and physical edges to save lives. And yet culturally we still stigmatize drug users, and we hold back tools that are proven to save lives and aid recovery. We compete to show that our programs are the best, our methods are the solution, when we know that a spectrum of supportive services, and concurrent multiple interventions are needed.

    What a time for me to take a break. What a privilege to be able to leave, to take respite, to rest; a privilege that most of our community members don’t have. Stepping away is always hard, but the perspective it generates is essential. So I step away with care and respect, knowing that it is a privilege to do so, and hoping that I can honour that privilege by sharing the stories, strengths and humanity of the people who compose the community of the DTES, while I travel and explore.

    I got everything as best laid out as I could, packed my bags, put up posters, had conversations and set the auto responders on my emails. And then I headed out to California’s Death Valley.


    The Desert

    I found the respite I was seeking in that desert – in the vast silence and scale of the sand and stone; sounds absorbed like water in the ever present, slowly shifting land, the immense powers of time, pressure, wind and heat so visible in the patterns of colour, the formations of minerals, the swaths of sand and folds of rock. Life persists in the cracks and crevices, roots reaching deep for water, coyotes roam, their full fur the colour of the orange rocks and golden sands.

    Returning to the lush rainforest coast from the dry desert was incredibly refreshing; welcomed back by the winds and waves of the pacific ocean, the fir, pine and cedar, the gulls and hawks soaring on ocean winds. Touching the ocean, hair strewn by the wind, chasing the waves on the sand, I felt like I’d come home again, and that feeling was as exhilarating as standing at the tops of the desert sand dunes: the strange as wonderful as the familiar. I carry the coast with me when I travel, and now I carry the desert too. Both are sources of energy, both connect me better to my place in this world, the tiny slice of belonging I can carve out for myself, in the hope that I can support others in finding the same.

    Getting out of my camper van at the conference centre, dropped off by three good friends who’d seen me through the desert, I was delighted to start meeting the beekeepers and pollinator people who were walking the grounds, checking into our rooms and wondering what we were all in for. There was excitement in the air, of potential and hope, and it was palpable, I think, for all.


    Conference Day 1: A cultural shift is needed

    We gathered together in the main hall to start the conference, and were welcomed by our host, conference instigator and organizer, Bonnie Morse, who encouraged us to have open hearts and minds: ideas can come from anywhere, and can become anything, if nurtured. Our Lead Facilitator, Mark Winston, explained the itinerary and structure of the conference, encouraging listening, reflection, concise reporting and punctuality. Mark was one of ten Thought Leaders who would guide us through breakout sessions based in the concept of dialogue, under Chatham House Rule: ideas generated in dialogue throughout our time together would be accountable to the group, not to the individual.

    To inspire us, to set the bar high, and to activate the conference, we had a presentation that night, our only keynote of the conference, by Dr. Larry Brilliant. He shared the story of the eradication of small pox; the strategies used to rid the world of that devastating disease, and the possible implications for approaches to our current issues in beekeeping, ecosystem and pollinator health. The central lesson for me was this: a shift in the way the problem was being approached, was key to success. The effective tool of the small pox vaccine had been around for about 150 years, but the strategy of immunizing everyone in the world wasn’t working. It was especially ineffective in underprivileged countries where systems of communication and delivery of medicine are not equitable, efficient or accessible. Accessibility plays a huge role in marginalized communities. The challenge in curing the medical disease was a social issue, and it was in need of a social approach. So Dr. Brilliant and his team (of approx. 150,000 people) changed the approach. They sought to isolate instances of the disease and create immunization bubbles around each outbreak. They used visual tools, door-to-door and person-to-person communication, and they saw a rapid increase in their ability to contain the disease to the point where they successfully eradicated it, in under 10 years.

    The challenge in applying this lesson is that while small pox is incontestably a disease worth eradicating, and the only push back was that it couldn’t be done, not that it shouldn’t be done, the issues facing pollinators are less direct, are contested. We have the knowledge and the tools. We know pollinator populations are at-risk. We know that protecting and fostering diverse habitat can restore pollinator populations and increase agricultural yields. We know that chemicals applied to crops and those used within our hives interact, and have impact that is negative for bees, humans and the ecosystem alike. Although often considered non-lethal in confinement, the interactions and synergies of these synthetic chemicals create lethality for all kinds of life.

    Alternatives exist, but they require cultural change. The complex, cumulative, synergistic issues facing pollinators are in meshed in social-cultural-economic-political systems, where opposing values and interests come into play. The long-term impact of saving the bees and other pollinators is clear, without them we lose our food system, we lose our food, we lose life. In the short term, however, we are stuck in habits of thinking that change equates cost and thus loss. We have yet to find a common value to align around. Finding that value, identifying the shift needed, and the structures of support to activate the shift, became a central theme of the conference for me.

    Is the common value community? Can we make the shift so that we see all people, plants, pollinators, water, oceans, and life as connected, of intrinsic value? How does this vie with the american dream of the individual? Can we rally around protecting habitat for all, human individual self-interest included? Is it working to show the economic value of natural resources? There are many questions, and I beleive asking them is a great place to start activating change.

    I believe we need to find ways to create more connected communities, connected to nature, to each other and to ourselves. If we can build and foster these social and cultural connections, if we can teach ourselves and our children to nurture and respect the interconnectedness of all life, then perhaps we can change the way we exploit both nature and each other.


    Conference Day 2 & 3: diversity and collaboration, how and why to support pollinators in the city

    Over the next two days we participated in six breakout sessions, randomized into groups with rotating Thought Leaders facilitating dialogue, then returning to report back to the ful conference contingency. Walking to and from sessions under the eucalyptus trees, pausing on flowering-vine-footbridges, discussing ideas with fellow participants, refreshed by visits from hummingbirds and the breeze up the hill from the ocean, we worked hard to express and share thoughts, all centered around how we can come together to protect bees, beekeepers and pollinators.

    The value of diversity in this conversation cannot be overstated. We are all stakeholders, and only through inter-industry collaboration can we move forward together. Gardeners, backyard beekeepers, sideline business beekeepers, urban farmers, commercial beekeepers, commercial farmers, researchers, advocates, government … we all need to come to the table to protect the habitat our pollinators rely on for forage and nesting. And we need to come together in conversation and collaboration, not in animosity, competition, or judgment. And that takes openness, trust and leadership.

    It was exciting to bring a socio-cultural perspective to the dialogue, one that I have developed in my studies and work in food security, community engagement, and urban apiculture. These ideas are often a refreshing and empowering perspective for beekeepers, they can inspire new thought and action, and are very relatable: the social impact of bees, as connecters, and as mechanisms for building trust, teaching communication, fostering self-worth and enhancing community pride. Although the wording may be new, I find that as soon as I share my ideas and stories, beekeepers respond from a place of understanding. They relate to it, and have their own words for it. These words, in almost every case, are variances of the following: 1) that beekeeping is like “meditation”, it brings calm, it slows things, it focuses you, it is healing, 2) that bees are “magic” and 3) that we can learn a lot about communication from the bees.

    There is a culture that surrounds the hive, as there is a culture that surrounds food. In fact these things, these living systems, are pieces of our culture. When we industrialize and commercialize them, when we pressure them for higher output and profit, we rob them of their cultural significance, we disconnect them. Our human culture is tied to nature, but we have lost much of that connection, we have dislocated our systems, lost touch with the places that our food and other resources come from, and with the impacts that our consumption and waste have. We are removed, from nature, from community, and often from ourselves.

    Bringing nature back into our lives, and back into our conceptions of community, is much needed. We can do this through education and dialogue, and through action that is inclusive, collaborative and intersectional; for there is an interconnectedness that runs through all things, systems that intertwine with each other. Nothing exists except in relation to that which surrounds it. We are our communities. If we are to protect our pollinators, our food and our ecosystems, and in doing so protect the world we are a part of, then we need to make a cultural shift to a paradigm that values all life and all of its multifaceted interconnectivity.

    The frustrating thing is that change lags behind need. We are stubborn and shift slowly, we tend to be myopic, and we tend to make decisions based in fear instead of in hope. But bees, gardens, beekeeping, growing food – these are inherently optimistic activities, and they bring people together in community, fostering hope. So how can we activate this hope, engage collaboratively, and shift the approach – the tools exist, but something in the way we are applying them hasn’t been taking root.

    The shift has started though, and perhaps it is acknowledging where we are at that is most needed. What are the systems; who are the players; what are the tools? We also need to acknowledge that we may not see the outcomes in our lifetimes, which we are working towards today. But the fight is worth fighting, the opportunities we create today inspire more opportunities for tomorrow.


    Activating ideas, it is up to us!

    At the end of the conference we came together to summarize and reflect, to share key moments in dialogue. One of the participants asked: “What is next? Where do we go from here?” To my delight, in a simple yet extremely powerful and honest call to action, our Lead Facilitator responded: “That is not up for me to say, it is up to you to do.” Yes! It is up to us! We must go out and activate our ideas, in the best way we each can, in our own communities, with our hearts forward and open. It is up to us!

    Here are my three commitments to activate my ideas:

    • I will rebuild the Vancouver Urban Beekeeping Club, to foster dynamic dialogue about bees in the city, how and why we can support them.
    • I will coordinate a Bee Audacious gathering of multi industry stakeholders to further the shift in thought and action around human and ecosystem inclusion, diversity, and resilience in 2017/2018.
    • I will create a symposium for Apimondia 2020, on the social impact of pollinators and the honeybee.

    You can help by holding me to them, by talking about bees and pollinators in our city, by saying hello to your neighbours, by smiling at strangers and commenting on the beauty of a petal or the fresh breeze off the ocean.

    To read more about the conference, to watch the video of the Public Report Back & Panel Discussion that happened on December 14th 2016, and to keep your eyes out for the report Mark Winston is compiling for March, check out the Bee Audacious website and Facebook.