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Honeybees find a home at Gordon Head community garden

Beekeeper Barry Denluck holds a tray of honeybees at the University of Victoria campus community garden, where an apiary is now installed for the summer. - Andrea Peacock/News staff
Beekeeper Barry Denluck holds a tray of honeybees at the University of Victoria campus community garden, where an apiary is now installed for the summer.
— image credit: Andrea Peacock/News staff

Barry Denluck just wants the world to love bees.

So it was with delight when Denluck delivered four honeybee colonies to the University of Victoria’s campus community garden earlier this month after two years of negotiations.

“This all had to do with the liability issue of honeybees in a semi-public place,” he said.

Denluck is the official beekeeper for the apiary, colloquially known as a collection of beehives, and several others across Greater Victoria.

He harvests the honey and said he needs the bees to sting him 20 to 30 times each year in order to keep his body acclimatized to their venom.

“To me, a bee sting is like a mosquito bite to you,” he says.

Matthew Morrison, campus community garden co-ordinator, sees the apiary as a welcome addition to the garden.

Former co-ordinators attempted to get honeybee approval from university officials four years ago, but they were unsuccessful.

Members of the garden are now supportive of the project, although Morrison said some were initially concerned about stinging and allergic reactions.

“We brought in [epinephrine doses] and let everyone know (about the bees) with signs,” said Morrison.

“We have a protective fence so people know that there’s bees right there, and they’re not likely to come into unintentional contact.”

The successful push came from Alicia Zigay, a UVic microbiology graduate who contacted Denluck in 2013.

Zigay saw a need for a bee farm after realizing a large number of current and aspiring beekeepers had no place in which to house their bees.

“Alicia was absolutely instrumental in making this attempt actually work,” Denluck said. “She doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘no’.”

Zigay hopes UVic’s students and faculty, as well as the Saanich community as a whole, take advantage of the learning opportunity now buzzing around them.

That early enthusiasm is already showing up, as UVic’s Biology 345 – Animal Behaviour instructor is working on getting one of his labs to the apiary, Denluck said.

Another group, Science Venture, a non-profit organization for youth, has been escorting their Grade 1 summer program students to the apiary as well, said director Melissa Yestrau.

“These hands-on experiences moved many of our campers from a place of fear to understanding – many recognizing how vital bees are to our health and well-being and seeing it as their duty to help protect bees and their environment,” Yestrau said.

The bees make their home at the back corner of the garden at 2100 McKenzie Ave., and are surrounded by a high netting that forces the bees above people’s heads when leaving the colony.

Once bees are a couple of metres away from their home, they no longer want to protect it, Denluck said.

The bee farm will run on a trial basis until October, but Denluck is confident the installation will be a permanent success.

“Way down the road, I’d like to see two apiaries on campus,” he said.

Morrison agrees.

“It’s a super important part of having a healthy food system and having good pollination, and it’s neat that we’re enhancing pollination for the community garden,” he said.

Students, staff or faculty of UVic who want to be part of the campus community garden can send an email to ccgarden@uvic.ca.

Anyone in Greater Victoria who needs a beehive relocated from their property can call Denluck at 250-900-5133, or visit barrysbees.ca.

andrea.peacock@vicnews.com

 

 

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