Behind a beautiful little community garden in the north end of Dartmouth sits a collection of unsung heroes: The honey bee.
The world bee population has been dropping drastically over the years. All species of bees are considered “at risk”, and saving their existence on our planet is a must. Bee populations are of a considerable benefit; Without bees pollinating our gardens, both personal and commercial, there would be a serious issue with crop growing. It’s becoming more common to find farmers asking for bee colony installations on their farms as I found out after speaking to a blueberry farmer.
As a species at risk, any help our furry little buzzing friends can get is vital. Educating people about the risk is important, and this is where a fantastic community event is stepping in to help via Family SOS (we’ll talk a bit more about who they are later).
With youth it’s main target, and with positive community support, the Honey Beez community project is under its pilot run. With several large colonies in a secluded back area of the Guy Jacobs Community Garden in Dartmouth, gardeners get an extra hand. The smaller colony is estimated at 20,000+ bees and the largest at close to 50,000 bees! Spearheaded by the Family SOS, members check on the bees weekly and ensure the bees are well fed, watered, and not showing signs of sickness. Youth are encouraged to take part in the work required to sustain a healthy bee colony, all while learning about the importance of their ecosystem and biology of the fuzzy buzzing bee.
They monitor colony growth, honey and beeswax production, and overall health. This is all done with direct supervision and caution, but again, no issues have been noted yet to date. Emergency supplies are always on hand during the bee colony interactions which includes Epi Pens, first-aid kits, bee suits and a smoker. This incredibly fascinating interaction with the colonies of bees holds the attention of all those involved. It allows hands-on interaction with the animals and shows a side many never get to see. The project brings to light the importance of environmental care, staying in school, and keeps youth focused on productive activity. To further their knowledge of the bees, the youth are encouraged to read and research the bees. It offers a unique community interaction that is sure to produce positive long term results and make younger generations aware and interactive in the care of our environments.
This garden had started off with more colonies, but were asked to provide colonies to another community, which the happily did. The Graystone area of Halifax is now home to colonies of bees from this garden with the aim of spreading knowledge and care around for others to enjoy.
While many signs are posted throughout the garden to advise visitors of their existence and to be very careful near the colonies, no safety issues have occured. In fact, positive comments and observations about their presence is abundant, and the growers at the garden say that their plants this year has seen great and noticeable improvements.
From Family SOS
“The Honey Beez project is a youth-led social enterprise that was developed as a result of our partnership with the Centre for Entrepreneurship, Education and Development (CEED). Healthy Teenz, Dartmouth North participants have been working with CEED on an ongoing basis to develop financial literacy and entrepreneurship skills. Youth participants identified a need to take their entrepreneurship skills and apply them to a business project that will give back to their community.
Youth from the Healthy Teenz program are responsible for managing several beehives, ensuring the well-being of the bees, while engaging their community on the importance of bees on a global level. In addition, the youth will harvest, package, market and sell honey from the hives, which will enhance and develop valuable life skills and entrepreneurial spirit.
The Guy Jacobs Community Garden (GJCG) has partnered with Family SOS and has provided our youth with a plot for their beehives as well as an additional plot for the garden. Our group of youth will collaborate with community partners to ensure this project is meaningful and sustainable, socially as well as environmentally.
This project teaches our youth concepts around the importance of hard work, community, environment and sustainable food. They are learning the process of cultivating food, whether it is by harvesting honey from beehives or by planting, growing, weeding and harvesting food from the garden. They are also learning safe food handling processes around preparing and packaging food. By implementing a youth-led social entrepreneurship project, it creates a sense of belonging, develops life skills/career development, and increases self-confidence for youth, which helps to break the cycle of crime, violence and low-income living in our community.
The Honey Beez Project has gained incredible traction over the past few months. Initially the plan was to launch the program specifically in Dartmouth North however, our Healthy Kidz and Teenz from the Spryfield and Halifax locations have expressed much enthusiasm and are excited to manage their own hives within their communities. They have started working with the Honey Beez participants to learn all they can about beekeeping and gardening. The project expansion has received a great deal of support from community partners and we have the capacity to expand over the upcoming year. ”