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Cross Pollination: A Conversation with the Dalhousie Beekeeping Society

We have an exciting announcement – today we’ll be introducing Hive to Home’s monthly Cross Pollination donation. Each month, Hive to Home will be donating 5% of sales to a Nova Scotian beekeeping group, society, or community garden. The inaugural recipient, from Chelsey’s alma mater, is the Dalhousie Beekeeping Society (DBS).

Last spring, Hive to Home received a Community Investment grant from the CUA to purchase a commercial griddle. With beeswax wrap production becoming 93% more efficient, Chelsey made it a priority to give back to local pollinator protectors. She found DBS through their Instagram page, and was in awe of their commitment to education, sustainability, and inclusivity. The Dalhousie Beekeeping Society became a ratified student society just under two years ago, and since then, the whole team has been working in high gear. I chatted with Sydney Carroll, DBS’s founding (and graduating) president.

In the spring of 2020, Sydney took the ‘Beeyond the Veil’ course, an introductory course to the wide world of beekeeping. After a summer of learning, she was eager to continue her newfound hobby. “When school started up again in Fall 2021, I realized we didn’t have a beekeeping society”, Sydney recalls. So, she swiftly began the process of establishing and ratifying Dalhousie’s first beekeeping society, by organizing a group of ten founding members, and getting the word out at student orientation events.

Her visions were countless: “So I basically said we’d have guest speaker and hives without a real plan of how to make it happen. Over the course of the year, we were able to start networking with beekeepers, scientists and researchers and we started to grow our network.”

Despite receiving a “hard no” from Dalhousie Facilities after requesting to keep beehives on campus, Sydney had a well-envisioned plan to execute. Thus began the search for a suitable hive location. “I knew we needed a location that would be accessible via public transportation to our members”, Sydney says. After reaching out to NSCC Ivany Campus, they received an enthusiastic yes. “As soon as I approached NSCC Ivany campus about having bees there they were super receptive to the idea”. In just one year, NSCC Ivany has provided DBS the space for “three fully functioning hives, our own shed, and a yard on the [Dartmouth] waterfront”.

But their network of partnerships doesn’t stop there. “We’re right next to the Woodside Urban Farm, so our bees are also pollinating their crops”, Sydney adds. “It’s been a really great mutual relationship.” Wanting to make the hives more accessible, the team wants to make hive stands, which they hope NSCC Ivany’s carpentry program can build.

Even with the phenomenal support DBS has received from NSCC Ivany, covering the costs of maintaining bee colonies is difficult. “Beekeeping is not cheap”, Sydney laments. With the donation from Hive to Home, the team will be purchasing DBS merchandise to sell, and will use the profit margin to fund day-to-day beekeeping costs, which covers everything from sugar to miticide, a vaccine to protect the colonies. “It’s strictly going right back to what we need for our bees”.

Unlike most other student societies at Dalhousie, DBS deals with the wellbeing of living colonies. Avoiding bureaucratic lags in accessing funding and materials (which plague other student societies and organizations) is essential for DBS. Given their circumstances, Sydney is grateful for the relationship the society has foraged with NSCC Ivany facilities: “I’ve really loved working with NSCC – they really put a lot of their sustainability practices at the forefront and so projects like this just take off really quickly”.

At just one year-old, the hives have just gone through their first Nova Scotian winter. The team will be at the yard this weekend to uncover the hives and prepare the colonies for spring and summer.

With their colonies populated exclusively by western honeybees (or apis mollifera), Sydney recognizes the importance of expanding their operations and maintaining a holistic approach to pollinator protection. “While its cool to keep honeybees, they are an introduced species, they’re not native to North America” Sydney explains. “Having honeybees puts pressure on our ecosystems as it reduces the amount of foraging that native pollinators can do.”

Given this, the team has their sights set on new ventures to protect local pollinators, such as monarch butterflies, carpenter bees and bumblebees. “We need to improve ecosystems for our native pollinators,” Sydney says. The team is helping to establish a natural pollinator garden in a tucked away lot on Dalhousie’s Sexton campus. They hope to entice native pollinators to the area, knowing that “if we’re going to continue to be honeybee keepers, we need to maintain some kind of balance”.

Sydney will graduate this spring with a degree in Environmental Sciences & Sustainability, and is off to New Zealand, where she hopes to continue working with bees and pollinators. The DBS is in the capable hands of a committed and energetic executive team, ready to take the bees through their second summer.

Hive to Home continues to look for recipients of the Cross Pollination monthly donation. Do you know of anyone or group doing great with work with pollinator protection? Share their name with us – we’d love to continue to cross-pollinate ideas and resources and support our local pollinators.

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