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Sustainable Urban Beekeeping | BK911

Tucked away in the Humber Arboretum's meadow is a collection of beehives which have for years provided delicious small batch honey and served as a point of interest for visiting students and tour groups.

Now, in partnership with Humber College, the Humber Arboretum is pleased to offer a series of courses and hands-on workshops centered around Sustainable Urban Beekeeping. Whether your focus is on creating local food for your family and community or making your own small batch honey and by-products to sell, join the Humber Arboretum's experienced beekeepers for weekend sessions that can get you started on the path to thriving urban hives that put the health of the bees first.

Take Individual Courses or Earn a Certificate of Participation through Humber College

Learners are free to pick and choose the courses that are of interest*, or complete 8 required courses and 2 electives to earn a Certificate of Participation through Humber College. See the full course descriptions below.

*Please note that several courses have pre-requisites. Read individual descriptions for details.

Anyone planning to take the full certificate can save over $300 by bundling the ten courses in advance for only $575 plus HST. (Please note, the $575 does not include additional material fees for electives.)


Gift Certificates

Do you know someone who would love to learn about Sustainable Urban Beekeeping? Gift certificates are available for individuals courses or for the full certificate ($575 plus HST). We will provide you with a PDF gift certificate suitable for printing or emailing.



To register for individual courses listed below or the full certificate, or to purchase a gift certificate, contact the Humber Arboretum at or call 416-675-5009.

Please note, there will be a $25 administration fee charged for cancelling a registration.



The Sustainable Urban Beekeeping program is designed so it can be completed in a year, however certificate participants have two years to complete all courses.

The one-year plan would most commonly look like this: 

  • January - April: While the bees are bunked down for the winter, take the three indoor classroom-based core courses (BEES 010, 020, and 030) 
  • May - August: With those prerequisites covered, sign up for the first two bee yard workshops (040, 050) to begin your monthly spring and summer visits to the hives
  • July - September: Complete Products of the Hive (070) in the summer so you're ready to participate in a full honey harvest in late summer/early fall (080)
  • September - October: Learn how to ready a hive for the winter with two autumn visits to the bee yard (060)
  • Flexible: Complete your two desired electives

All courses take place on the weekend and are generally offered at least twice a season, depending on demand.

Certificate registration is limited by the physical capacity of the Bee Yard workshops. If those workshops are already filled to capacity, you can still complete the classroom-based courses and electives in the current year and be at the top of the list for the Bee Yard workshops in the following year.


Core Courses

Certificate participants must complete all eight core courses. These workshops can also be taken individually, although several have prerequisites.

A table display includes a smoker, a beekeepers helmet, and numerous books.

Sustainable Urban Beekeeping: The Basics (BEES 010)

2019 dates TBA

While bees are struggling in rural environments, they've been thriving in urban ones. If you've been thinking of taking up urban beekeeping, this introduction to the challenges and opportunities of keeping bees in the city is for you.

Topics covered include: honeybee anatomy & behaviour, site selection, available resources, necessary equipment, laws & registration, and the beekeeping year.

Location: Centre for Urban Ecology, Humber Arboretum

Fee: $80.00 plus HST

A collage shows hive types, bee hotels, and a display board with plants

Native and Honeybees: Habitat and Forage (BEES 020)

2019 dates TBA

While the numbers of wild pollinators in rural areas are being decimated by industrial agricultural practices and loss of habitat due to peri-urban sprawl, their counterparts in urban environments are faring comparatively better.

This workshop will look at native pollinator populations that have higher densities in urban compared to rural areas. What factors contribute to this success, and what can urbanites do to make the city even more hospitable to wild pollinators? What are the benefits of encouraging wild pollinators in the city? 

Supportive strategies for increasing urban diversity of native bees will be discussed, including nest-building (native bees) and planting a bee-friendly garden; several hive types will be compared and contrasted (with a focus on the Langstrothe 8-frame), and specialized hive components will be explored while providing participants with hands-on experience.

Location: Centre for Urban Ecology, Humber Arboretum

Fee: $80.00 plus HST

A honeybee collects pollen from a flower

Beekeeping Challenges (BEES 030)

2019 dates TBA

A range of beekeeping challenges (pests, pathogens and predators) will be addressed with a focus on Integrated Pest Management. Monitoring techniques, recognizing signs and symptoms of problems, and conventional vs alternative treatment methods will be explored.

Swarming is a natural reproductive strategy of the honey bee colony, but can be problematic at close quarters in the city. This workshop will cover monitoring techniques, what swarming behaviour is telling you about your bees, how to mitigate or prevent swarming and even how to benefit from this natural behaviour. 

It happens: sometimes a hive/colony will fail, even when you give the bees your best. While a dead colony is heart-breaking, it can be seen as a learning opportunity. We will cover the most common causes of "dead-outs" and strategies to minimize or prevent their occurrence.

Location: Centre for Urban Ecology, Humber Arboretum

Fee: $80.00 plus HST

In a beekeeping suit, Fran Freeman opens an outdoor hive.

The Bee Yard: Experiential Workshops (BEES 040, 050, 060)

Specific weekend dates and times will be arranged between the instructor and small groups of full certificate registrants

Prerequisites: BEES 010, 020, 030

These hands-on workshops teach participants how to care for hives throughout the season with monthly visits to the bee yard. 

The Bee Yard in Spring - BEES 040 (May and June): Participants will open up a hive (in the Arboretum and/or at Humber College) to observe and to help manage the bees. Spring topics include splitting hives, installing a nuc (nucleus colony), spring build-up, swarming, integrated pest management (IPM), and honey supering.

Fee: $80 plus HST

The Bee Yard in Summer - BEES 050 (July and August): Participants will open up a hive (in the Arboretum and/or at Humber College) to observe and to help manage the bees. Summer topics include splitting hives, integrated pest management (IPM), and honey supering/preparing for harvest. 

Fee: $80 plus HST

The Bee Yard in Autumn - BEES 060 (Sept and Oct): Participants will open up a hive (in the Arboretum and/or at Humber College) to observe and to help manage the bees. Autumn topics include harvest preparation, fall treatments and readying the hive for the long winter months.

Fee: $100 plus HST

A collage of uncapping and spinning frames.

Beekeeping: Products of the Hive (BEES 070)

Two upcoming dates to choose from: 
Sunday August 12 2018, 10:00 am - 3:00 pm
Saturday August 25 2018, 10:00 am - 3:00 pm

What are the steps in sustainably harvesting honey? This workshop will examine harvesting tools and methods, regulations, jarring, and labelling first-hand. Incorporating a hands-on component, attendees will have a chance to uncap a honey frame and spin it out using our hand-cranked centrifuge. Cleaning beeswax and building a simple solar wax melter are also part of this experience. Wear clothes you don't mind getting messy and/or bring an apron.

Location: Centre for Urban Ecology

Fee: $75 plus HST

Honey pours from a centrifuge spout

Honey Harvesting: Hands-On (BEES 080)

Two upcoming dates to choose from: 
Saturday August 18 2018, 9:00 am - 3:00 pm* 
Sunday August 19 2018, 9:00 am - 3:00 pm*

Prerequisite: BEES 070

Participate in a full honey harvest day! 

Fee: $90 plus HST


* These dates are weather- and bees-permitting. If it does not seem like the honey will be ready to harvest, the alternate dates to choose from will be Saturday September 8th or Sunday September 9th, 2018

Elective Courses

Certificate participants must complete two electives. These workshops can also be taken individually.

 A collage of mixing and pouring creams into small jars

Honey Harvest By-Products: Salves, Creams, and Balms (BEES 094)

2018 - Two dates to chose from:
Sunday October 14 2018, 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Sunday October 28 2018, 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Honey is not the only beneficial byproduct of beekeeping! Healing salves, creams, lip balms and bath balms take advantage of the healing properties of honey and beeswax. Depending on time of year and popular demand, we will prepare various honey harvest byproducts - and take them home to enjoy.   

Location: Centre for Urban Ecology

Fee: $45 (+HST) plus materials fee of $30

A collage of honey being poured into a pot and jars with tubes attached to the top

Honey Harvest By-Products: Making Mead (BEES 096)

2018 - Two dates to chose from: 
Sunday September 23 2018, 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Sunday November 4 2018, 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm

At its most basic, mead - one of the world's oldest alcoholic beverages - is a blend of honey and water fermented with yeast. History of mead, terminology, safety and sanitation, and raw vs cooked methods are covered. Participants leave with 2-litres of mead-in-the-making to continue the fermentation process at home, simple instructions, and recipe variations for future mead-making adventures. Each participant will be provided with a reusable glass growler, fermentation lock and bung.

Location: Centre for Urban Ecology

Fee: $45 (+HST) plus materials fee of $30

A man's hands line up the joint on a wooden box

Beekeeping: Assembling a Hive (BEES 090)

Morning session, 2019 dates TBA

Assemble & Take Home an Urban Beehive!

We'll knock together an 8-frame Langstroth starter hive from pre-cut peices, including a brood box and frames, an inner and outer cover, and reversible bottom board. Then we'll build a second, screened, bottom board as part of our pest control strategy. More compact than a conventional hive, this 8-frame is perfect for urban environments where space is at a premium. Because it's lighter, it's a better choice for rooftop apiaries where weight restrictions can be a consideration. And lifting is easier on the back.

But did you know honeybees are more likely to die from moisture inside the hive than from the winter cold? We will also build a humidity box for our urban beehives. Sometimes called a ventilation box or a quilt, this addition will wick away moisture from inside the hive. It also acts as an excellent insulator during very cold or very hot weather, and holes drilled in the sides facilitate good ventilation, an important feature of a healthy hive.

Fee: $65 plus HST + materials $150

A mallet lays next to a pile of wooden bee-box pieces

Beekeeping: Expanding Your Urban Beehive (BEES 092)

Afternoon session, 2019 dates TBA

Finish up hive components begun in the morning session and spend the afternoon expanding your starter hive with additional boxes and frames. 

Fee: $65 (+HST) plus materials fee of $30 per additional box with frames (please indicate in advance how many additional boxes you would like to make to ensure adequate materials are available)

A woman in a winter coat crouches beside covers hives and listens to them with a stethoscope

Listening to the bees.

About the Instructor

Fran Freeman has been managing honey bees in both urban and rural settings for over a dozen years. With her partner John Coffman she tends the hives at the Humber Arboretum and both campuses of Humber College, as well as the hives at the YMCA’s Cedar Glen Outdoor Centre near Nobleton.

As sticky bees urban honey & hive consciousness, Fran markets sustainable hive products including honeys and healing salves and runs workshops on bees and sustainable beekeeping with a particular emphasis on keeping bees in the city using organic methods. Assisted by John, Fran teaches all of the Sustainable Urban Beekeeping courses at the Humber Arboretum.

Read an interview with Fran on