“There’s an empty spot in Kristjan Bullock’s garden where his honeybees used to live….” As I read the front page article in the Edmonton Journal on July 6th I start to revisit all the emotions that I felt that day when the Animal Services officer met me at my front door two weeks earlier. Betrayal, frustration, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say anger. I was baffled that this article was front page worthy. Was urban beekeeping really that big of an issue? And that’s when the phone started ringing.
Two months earlier I was reading the Metro and noticed a small article tucked in a corner about a beekeeping course that was being held by Patty Milligan of Lola Canola Honey. I was immediately drawn to the opportunity so I went about getting signed up for the course. For me it was all about the bees; I’ve had a curiosity about social insects since I was a little. Whether it was catching bees in the apartment rose garden in Germany or relocating a wasp’s nest into an ice cream bucket in the back yard of our Calgary home, I simply love watching these mystifying creatures.
After taking the course I started preparations for putting a hive in the yard. I talked to my next door neighbours first to see if they had any concerns or allergies. There appeared to be no issues, so I went ahead with my plans. I purchased all the equipment and on June 16th acquired my bees. I had little issues with the bees and they quickly adapted to their new home and were hard at work collecting nectar and pollen. The enjoyment didn’t last long as five days later an Animal Services officer came to the house. They had received a complaint from a neighbour and gave one week to move my bees or face a $500/day fine for every day thereafter. It took some digging around but I eventually found a spot to move my bees that was on the opposite side of the road from the city limits. I then questioned the neighbours to find who had betrayed me and if there was anything I could have done to prevent it. It turned out the neighbour had discovered it was illegal and that was enough of an affirmation of their fears to call the city.
Looking back I wonder if I should have gone the discrete route like so many other urban beekeepers in Edmonton, hiding in their backyards with six foot tall fences and avoiding all social contact. How would people ever learn about the benefits of bees in that way? While my story seems to be a setback, it has really turned into a step forward. The morning the article ran I received multiple calls from various news agencies all interested in my story. Since those have been aired I have received multiple calls from people who want bees on their land and even an ex-city counselor offering her support. It turns out that maybe there is a future for urban beekeeping in Edmonton after all.