What’s the buzz? To honeybee or not to honeybee?

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Photo: Lise Lafond

A honeybee is fuzzy, yellow and brown, and is not striped.  Wasps are slimmer and have no fuzz.  

We either love them or fear them, yet we could never live without them. Honeybees might be the most misunderstood of all creatures. The City of Quebec has embarked on a mission to bring awareness (and honey) to its inhabitants.

In collaboration with Alvéole, cofounded by expert beekeepers Alexandre McLean, Étienne Lapierre and Declan Rankin Jardin, the City will be installing beehives on the roofs of two of its buildings and become part of a honey highway in four city neighbourhoods.

With these beehives around, should we worry about summer picnics being interrupted by uninvited guests?
In fact, it is not the bees causing us grief, it’s their evil twin, the wasp! Lapierre explains why honeybees pose no threat. “Wasps are carnivores, eating for themselves.” A vegan honeybee lives for its colony and feeds on nutrients found in nectar and pollen. She is not interested your ham sandwich.

Lapierre adds that bees never fly near us. If you want to see a bee, look for flowers. Once a honeybee is old enough to be promoted to pollen collector, she has about 10 days left to live. When you see a bee, she is working and will not risk her life to sting us, unless her colony is in danger. If a bee stings, the stinger remains imbedded in its victim and she will die. A wasp can sting multiple times and not lose its stinger. If there is no stinger left behind, it wasn’t a bee that attacked you.

Also, a bee is more of a brown colour and has fur. A wasp is slim, with yellow and black stripes and fur-less.

Can we manage wasps without harming our bees? According to Lapierre, the answer is, “Yes.” Wasps are territorial which makes those paper “wasp nest” traps you can pick up at a dollar store quite effective. Bees are only attracted to flowers.

We need to protect the bee population. Without them, plants would not be pollinated, many crops would fail and we would not have honey. Aside from beautiful flowers, think about all the things we eat or wear, from cotton to coffee to chocolate, that are plant-based.

Quebec City has recognized the important role honeybees play in our world and Alvéole is committed to helping us help bees.

Imagine buying honey so local, it is produced in your neighbourhood. From September to December, you can purchase from Alvéole a tasting box of four 140-gram jars of honey from Cap-Rouge, Limoilou, Montcalm and Sillery. If you live in one of these neighbourhoods and you have flowers, you will likely enjoy honey from your own yard. It is hard to get more local than that.

Alvéole is also raising awareness of nature and of bees “in a magical way,” says Lapierre. “We are in schools, organizations and in people’s back yards.” Everyone can participate in this beautiful movement. Simply planting flowers will be important for bees.

If you are interested in having a hive in your yard, contact Alvéole for information at www.alveole.buzz. They sell other bee-related products besides honey.

If you would like to learn more about beekeeping, you can enrol in a Basic Beekeeping class on July 8 at 2 p.m. or an Advanced Perfecting your Skills on July 23 at 1 p.m. The classes take place at Alvéole headquarters at 198 rue Hermin in Quebec City.