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  • Report is Out: honey bees monitoring pollution

    What began as an initiative to show our honey is safe for consumption has done that and also become much more: the report is out!…/honey-bees-can-help-monitor-pollutio…/

    In a study published today in Nature Sustainability, scientists from UBC’s Pacific Centre for Isotopic and Geochemical Research (PCIGR) Research (PCIGR) analyzed honey from urban beehives in six Metro Vancouver neighbourhoods. They tested for minuscule levels of lead, zinc, copper and other elements and carried out lead isotope analyses – akin to fingerprinting – to identify where the lead came from.

    “The good news is that the chemical composition of honey in Vancouver reflects its environment and is extremely clean,” said Kate E. Smith, lead author of the study and PhD candidate at PCIGR. “We also found that the concentration of elements increased the closer you got to downtown Vancouver, and by fingerprinting the lead we can tell it largely comes from manmade sources.””

  • Guest Post: Bee The Change!

    It’s April and the flowers are bursting and the hives are waking from their winter “slumber”. This season offers tangible reminders of the cycles of growth and the interconnections of our ecosystem. On Earth Day (April 22, Global) we are asked to take a closer look at the environment, ecosystems and natural world that supports us. This way of thinking can, and should, be a regular practice – we are all sharing this planet, and our collective actions, dollars, voices and priorities can have positive impacts. With this in mind, one of our wonderful volunteers has compiled a list to help you get started! Thanks Rebeka!


    Five Simple Ways You Can Protect The Planet And the Bees This Earth Month
    By Rebeka MacDonald

    April 22nd marks Earth Day: a day to celebrate our extraordinary environment and raise awareness of the threats against it. More than a billion people around the world will rally to inspire policy changes to protect the planet. But why stop at one day? Did you know the entire month of April has been earmarked as Earth Month?

    When we talk about saving the earth, we can’t help but also talk about the bees. They’re both round, famously two-toned, and massively underappreciated. After all, without bees and other pollinators, we wouldn’t have apples, avocados, or chocolate!

    So what can you do to make sure both the planet and the bees get the help they need? Here are five simple actions you can take this Earth Month to make a difference.

    Buy Local Produce
    Unlike the monoculture crops of large-scale production, your local farmer will grow a variety of crops to lengthen their harvest season. This variety promotes genetic diversity, which protects our food from disease. Genetic diversity is also important for a bee’s nutritional needs. Just like us, bees need to eat an assortment of food to be healthy. A wide variety of pollen will give bees a wide variety of proteins, fats, and vitamins.

    The easiest way to support healthy crops and healthy bees is to buy local produce. Visit your local farmer’s market for a scrumptious selection of fruits and veggies grown right here at home. You can also find locally grown produce at most grocery stores – keep an eye out for your food’s origins!

    Ed. Note: Buy Local Ice Cream too – during the month of April Earnest Ice Cream is donating towards H4H for every pint of Honey Chamomile ice cream sold!

    Plant Native Wildflowers
    You might think that planting anything in your garden is good for the planet, but your plants are part of an intricate ecosystem. What you plant in your garden doesn’t stay in your garden. Invasive plants can straight up hijack an ecosystem: they change the soil chemistry, steal resources from native plants, and don’t contribute to the food chain. Not cool.

    When you plant native species, you’re supporting the local ecosystem that has perfected itself over hundreds of years. Many native bee species rely on native plants for building materials and shelter. Find out what plant species are native to your area by talking to your local nursery, or check out the Native Plant Society of BC’s website for a list of suppliers in BC and more helpful resources!

    Avoid Using Pesticides
    Now that you’ve planted your bee-friendly native wildflowers, it’s time to take care of them. Most gardeners are quick to spray their gardens with pesticides to support healthy plants, but what about the health of the bees? While neonicotinoids, a type of pesticide that is deadly to bees, has been banned in Vancouver, many other pesticides are still toxic to bees and can impair their brain function. If you have old pesticides in your garden shed and want to dispose of them safely, you can do so here. Report misuse in the city of Vancouver by dialing 311.

    Pesticides aren’t just harmful to bees though. When you use pesticides in your garden, they can seep into the soil and eventually make their way into nearby water sources. From water, to insects, to fish, to birds, these harmful chemicals upset the surrounding ecosystem. Instead, opt for more natural remedies like spraying aphids with water and repelling slugs with beer.

    Ride Your Bike
    We all know air pollution stinks: it’s harmful for our bodies and is a major contributor to climate change. As if that isn’t enough, did you know air pollution can harm a bee’s ability to pollinate effectively? Bees don’t have very good eyesight, so they rely on their sense of smell to find their way to flowers. Air pollution can mask the scent of flowers by as much as 90 percent, making it difficult for bees to find food.

    Some especially toxic pollutants are found in traffic exhaust. By driving your car less, you can help reduce your carbon footprint and clear the air for the bees. Try riding your bike more often instead. The planet, the bees, and your glutes will thank you.

    Don’t Buy New Clothes
    It can take 2,700 litres of water to produce the cotton for one t-shirt. From cultivating cotton crops, to dying the textiles, to finishing the product, your new t-shirt is one thirsty product. In fact, cotton farming in Central Asia over the past 50 years has caused the Aral Lake, once the fourth largest lake in the world, to shrink by 90%.

    What about water conservation for the sake of the bees? During a drought, flowers go into survival mode, and produce less nectar and pollen. This means less food for bees! You can say no to fast fashion soaking up our planet’s water by not buying any new clothing this month. Check out your local thrift store, borrow from a friend, and make do with what you’ve got. The bees will agree that stripes are still in this season.

    It’s time to take a stand for the earth and the bees. Just like the survival of a hive depends on the work of many individual bees, our planet relies on the combined efforts of its people. Your small choices can contribute to a big impact. What impact will you have this Earth Month?


    Learn more about pollinator advocacy here and share your own resources online on Hives for Humanity’s social media (Facebook // Instagram // Twitter):


  • Mason Bee Resources

    We’re wild about bees!

    Did you know that there are more than 450 species of bee in BC (and counting!)? That is more than the number of birds in all of Canada. Honeybees can be found all over the world, but they are an introduced species to North America. Bee species vary in size, shape and colour, and unlike honeybees most wild bees are solitary and nest in cavities or holes in the ground. One thing that ALL pollinators (and people for that matter) need is habitat (a place to live) and forage (diverse, healthy food). If you want to support pollinators the best way to start is by planting a garden!

    Mason Bees are native to BC and are a fun way to get to know wild bees in your garden. They live in cavities, so you can roll tubes for them to live in and create a “Bee Hotel” for them to live in. These bee hotels can be hand made or purchased – but before you start, make sure you understand how to care for these living creatures so you can help them thrive.

    We’ve compiled a list of resources that will help you get started:


    DTES Seed Library – pick up seeds saved and packaged by our community of beekeepers and gardeners, at the Carnegie Centre Vancouver Public Library

    West Coast Seeds – a gardeners delight, enjoy the vast knowledge and diverse options of untreated and non-goo seeds for your gardening, food growing, pollinator supporting work

    Pollination with Mason Bees by Dr. M Dogterom
    Available here, plus additional resources:

    Attracting Native Pollinators: Protecting North America’s Bees and Butterflies by Xerces Society Staff
    Available here (and at library), plus LOADS of additional resources:

    Bee Basics

    Bee Friendly Plants for your Garden *Local Study by Earthwise Gardens

    Planning for Urban Pollinators by Environmental Youth Alliance (EYA)
    A visual ID guide for common pollinators of BC (EYA)
    Pollinator Partnership

    Crown Bees – lots of helpful videos:

    Pollination Ecology Lab at SFU
    Beethinking Youtube Introduction to solitary bees
    Mason Bee Lifecycle:
    More – plus a video of mating mason bees:
     Good luck!


  • Guest Blog: Intern Sam

    Guest Blog from our Carleton University Social Work Field Placement student Sam Davidson: Sam came and joined the H4H team in May and is with us until the end of July, she has been helping out at Bee Space, the Hastings Urban Farm and Folk Garden, in our Therapeutic Apiary and Mentorship programming, our Neighbourhood Honey Program, our workshops, events and with all kinds of things in between.


    Hello! You may or may not have seen me buzzing around the garden and/or bee space over the last month so please allow me to introduce myself properly. My name is Sam Davidson and I am here at Hives for Humanity doing a field placement as part of my fourth year curriculum in the Bachelor of Social Work program at Carleton University in Ottawa Ontario. How and why the heck did I come all this way to do a social work placement? My background is in food security and working with people experiencing poverty in rural settings. My passion is connecting with marginalized folk in nature and cultivating meaningful social relationships while building feelings of self-worth, belonging and community. I am also a beekeeper.

    A few years back a dear friend of mine introduced me to Hives for Humanity and I began my one sided long distance love affair with this amazing organization. I went from following them on social media to exploring  ways to incorporate what they are doing into my school projects and that is how I made my first real connection with Sarah, emailing questions. Fast forward a year later and I was bringing a jar of honey to my neighbour as thanks for a past favour when she introduced me to her dear friend who was visiting her, a fellow beekeeper. Phil, who is rearing queens (among other things) for Hives for Humanity, introduced himself and told me that although he used to live out my way he was now working for an organization in Vancouver. ‘It wouldn’t happen to be Hives for Humanity?’ I asked. Indeed it was. That night I dared to dream that I could come to H4H for my field placement and the wheels were in motion. I emailed Phil who put me back in touch with Sarah and the process began.

    So here I am for the next three months, soaking up the good work being done at Hives for Humanity. I have been overwhelmed by the warm welcome I have received from everyone and I have already learned so much about beekeeping, gardening and the community of the downtown east side. I hope to take all that I learn back with me to Ontario both to include this meaningful work in my future practice as a social worker and to share with others how feelings of community, hope and joy can be cultivated in unlikely places with nature, gardening and bees, connecting us both to ourselves and to each other.

  • Sweet Deal

    Our friend and mentor, author of Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive, and Professor at SFU Centre for Dialogue, Mark Winston, was commissioned by Vancity Credit Union to write a research paper on the honey bee industry in BC.

    The report was released at the end of July and it shows that BC is bucking the trends that we so often hear in the media, of globally declining bee health and populations. The report contains good news for bees in our province, and highlights the opportunities for us to support bees, both wild and managed, by focusing on growing and diversifying our local beekeeping resources, strengthening our economy and our ecosystem as we go.

    We had the opportunity to write a set of guest blogs with Vancity for their Good Money Blog: one on Saving the Bees, another on Urban Beekeping, and you can read Mark’s report here. (The first page has a really great list of highlights, the guts of the information, and then you can read on for more detail and even a little bit of a story about us on page 4!)

  • Citizen Scientist Pollinator Count at Hastings Folk Garden

    Many thanks to Environmental Youth Alliance and the citizen scientist team for visiting the Hastings Folk Garden to conduct a pollinator count. A total of 190 pollinators (bees, flies, beetles, moths) were observed by 9 citizen scientists in the 20 minute sampling period at Hasting folk Garden, for an average of 21 pollinators per person.

    > Read the report and see photos here
    > Learn more about Environmental Youth Alliance

  • DTES Respite

    It’s the season to be busy in your green spaces, to dance when it rains and to taste honey warm from the hive! Here are a few pictures from the week in the DTES, working with the wonderful folks of the neighbourhood to make beautiful spaces of respite; to take leadership roles as environmental stewards; to increase connectivity to nature and to community; and to build community pride with dignity and joy.

    Woodward’s Living Wall: a few of the residents of the Woodward’s Community Housing building got together and applied for a small grant to enhance their garden space and this is a shot of Louise, after we completed a living wall together with heather, sage, lavender and thyme for the bees and the people to enjoy!

    Mason Bees in June: mason bee eggs, developing in the safety of the mud walls their mothers made, on beds of nectar and pollen. A part of our Pollinator Corridor Project!

    Milross Gardens: The fresh greens of a community gardener’s veggie box in the foreground, the starts of a living wall to add to the Pollinator Meadow we’ve been working on, in the background.

    Hugh Bird Pollinator Garden: This community garden, cared for by residents of the Hugh Bird, is in full bloom, with colourful pollinator friendlies that we planted last year, and have returned thanks to the care they have been given.

    Hastings Hanging Baskets: The East Hastings hanging baskets, from Carrall to Gore, are replanted every summer by folks from the community, members of the Hastings Folk Garden Society. We have a great time, get a tonne of thanks form the street, along with questions about what we’re planting and why and offers of help. We plant pollinator friendly perennials, and we do it because we love our neighbourhood.

    Elisabeth, the First: Our first hive, Elisabeth, at the Hastings Folk Garden, in the heart of the DTES, a joy. Ian, Jim and I inspected the hive today, tasted honey and pollen warm and fresh from the hive, moving calmly in the midst of chaos.

  • Small Greenest Grants!

    We supported a number of community members in successful applications to the Vancouver Foundation Greenest City Small Grants program this season, and the projects are coming along very nicely. It’s truly incredible what a small grant can do to inspire community. It’s a fantastic program and easy to get involved with, check it out and apply next year for your own community idea!

    Read more

  • Storage Container Saga

    Last week we had a storage container delivered to the Hastings Urban Farm, where we run our open beekeeping workshops on Thursdays at 2pm, sell our honey in season at the farm gate Thursdays 3-6pm, run hive construction workshops, engage with the community, and have been planting a pollinator meadow for the bees and the people to enjoy!

    The container comes from one of our generous supporters, the Bee World Project, who have given us business plan mentorship and consultation that has been of great and lasting value, places in the Beginner Beekeeper course at the Honey Bee Centre in Surrey where we learned a lot about bees from Beekeeper Eric, and fell in love with a trip of goats, and most recently this gem of a storage container!

    It was very exciting to help the flat bed in through our tricky gate, and then watch him unload the container like it was a large feather, with skill and grace, and put it down exactly where i asked for it to be placed. And then to get all of our equipment into one place, and start our hive construction workshops back up immediatley! Yesterday one of our community carpenters said to me ” you know, I could be on the street right now, but I’m here, and I’m doing it for the love of the bees, and to be around people, I like it here, I like this work, thanks for taking me in.”  He was thanking the whole crew, not just me, and his work has been true and valuable and I thanked him right back. The DTES community has incredible depth of spirit, skill, intelligence and  understanding, and we are honoured to be part of it.

    Amazing things are possible with a little help from our friends!


  • CBK Update: March 2014

    This week we took off our sweaters, rolled up our sleeves and finally took the plunge in the depths of each of our city hives. We force ourselves to be patient each spring season, and wait until we are warm ourselves, before cracking open our overwintered colonies; not an easy wait when the bees give us so much joy and are such a beautiful meditation. In the meantime we’ve been busy working with folks in the community to build equipment and get our apiaries ready for the spring season.

    Our rewards upon our first inspections: bubbling hives, fresh frames of healthy brood, dancing bees, pollen laden workers, laying queens, new comb already filling with fresh nectar and pollen, and then that incredible aroma of the hive and the honey bee which enters the very soul. We come away with fingers sticky with propolis, an aroma of smoke in our pores, and an inner calm that we have all missed over the winter.

    A healthy hive brings such joy to everyone who witnesses it; equally an unhealthy hive is a sadness to behold: especially when beekeeper error is the cause. In our case we lost 8 out of 75 hives over the winter, all from beekeeper error, risking letting a colony go into winter a little weak.

    We have learned a lot, as ever, with keeping the bees; and, as ever, the lessons are about our selves and our communities as well as about the bees. Beekeeping and all of the complexities of managing a honeybee hive become so simple when you take a step back: stress. Stressed bees are vulnerable to disease. Just like people!

    So we strive to keep our bees calm, healthy, safe and well fed, and to do the same for the community we work with in the DTES. Incredibly, we find that it is the bees that give the people that feeling of well being, of calm and joy. As one of our DTES community beekeepers has said, the bees give you “a reason to lift your head.”

    Dandelion flow is on – so if you are looking for a simple way to support pollinators, leave those dandelions growing and enjoy observing the many visits they’ll get from bees collecting nectar and pollen!