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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.

New: Select Beekeeping Courses Offered Virtually 

For summer 2020, three of the Sustainable Urban Beekeeping courses have been moved to an online format. Each course, which is usually offered in a single 5-hour classroom experience, has been split into two 2.5 hours sessions and will be offered through Zoom. The courses will include the same content, and may be counted towards the full certificate program. Scroll down for full course descriptions and certificate information.

 

Dates & Times

At this time, all virtual beekeeping courses are currently scheduled on Mondays* from 10:00 am - 12:30 pm:  

 

BEES 010: Getting Started in Beekeeping

June 1 - Part One: Some Beekeeping Basics, Hive Equipment

June 8 - Part Two: Bee Biology, The Beekeeping Year

 

BEES 020: Bee Habitat and Forage in Urban Environments

June 15 - Part One: Honey & Native Bees, Keeping a Flower Diary

June 22 - Part Two: Bee-Friendly Plants and Growing Native Plants, including Q & A, with a gardening expert who is also a beekeeper

 

BEES 030: Beekeeping Challeges

June 29 - Part One: Pests, Pathogens & Predators, Equipment & Treatments

July 6 - Part Two: Swarming, Autopsy-ing a Deadout

 

*This may be revised later in the summer if/as more people return to work.

 

Registration Method & Deadline

The registration deadline for each course is midnight of the Wednesday preceding Part One. You should receive an email by end of day on the Friday with your Zoom login link and password. If you do not receive this email please check your spam folder, and if you can not locate it email arboretum@humber.ca by end of day on Saturday.

Register online now

How it Works

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 by bundling the ten courses in advance for $640 plus HST. (Please note, the bundled price 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 ($640 plus HST). We will provide you with a PDF gift certificate suitable for printing or emailing.

 

Registration for on-site courses

(To register for summer 2020 virtual sessions, please use the registration button above)

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

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

beekeeping

Timeline

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. Certificate registration is now full for 2020. For those interested in the full certificate, you still have the option of registering individually for any or all of the first three core courses (010, 020, 030) and any general interest electives. When certificate registration for 2021 opens, you would need to get in touch with us to register for the full certificate. At that time, let us know which courses you have already completed and an adjusted price will be discussed. 

 

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)

Summer 2020 virtual sessions offered in two parts:

Monday June 1 - Part One: Some Beekeeping Basics, Hive Equipment (10:00 am - 12:30 pm)

Monday June 8 - Part Two: Bee Biology, The Beekeeping Year (10:00 am - 12:30 pm)

Registration deadline, midnight Friday May 29

 

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: Online via Zoom

Fee: $90.00 plus HST

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

Native and Honeybees: Habitat and Forage (BEES 020)

Summer 2020 virtual sessions offered in two parts:

Monday June 15 - Part One: Honey & Native Bees, Keeping a Flower Diary (10:00 am - 12:30 pm)

Monday June 22 - Part Two: Bee-Friendly Plants and Growing Native Plants, including Q & A, with a gardening expert who is also a beekeeper (10:00 am - 12:30 pm)

Registration deadline, midnight Wednesday June 10

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? 

A few of the many native bees to be found in Ontario will be introduced and supportive strategies for increasing and diversifying their urban populations will be discussed, including planting bee-friendly gardens and pollinator corridors. 

Location: Online via Zoom

Fee: $90.00 plus HST

A honeybee collects pollen from a flower

Beekeeping Challenges (BEES 030)

Summer 2020 virtual sessions offered in two parts:

Monday June 29 - Part One: Pests, Pathogens & Predators, Equipment & Treatments (10:00 am - 12:30 pm)

Monday July 6 - Part Two: Swarming, Autopsy-ing a Deadout (10:00 am - 12:30 pm)

 

Registration deadline, midnight Wednesday June 24

 

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: Online via Zoom

Fee: $90.00 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. Each seasonal bee yard workshop will be scheduled in two parts, two hours for each part.

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 covered over the two sessions will include splitting hives, installing a nuc (nucleus colony), spring build-up, swarming, integrated pest management (IPM), and honey supering.

Fee: $90 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 covered over the two sessions include splitting hives, integrated pest management (IPM), and honey supering/preparing for harvest. 

Fee: $90 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 covered over the two sessions will include harvest preparation, fall treatments and readying the hive for the long winter months.

Fee: $110 plus HST

A collage of uncapping and spinning frames.

Beekeeping: Products of the Hive (BEES 070)

Prerequisite: Must be registered in the complete certificate program

Two 2020 dates to choose from: 
Sunday July 26, 10:00 am - 3:00 pm (Full - waitlist only)
Sunday August 16, 10:00 am - 3:00 pm (Full - waitlist only)

What are the steps in sustainably harvesting honey? This workshop will examine harvesting tools and methods, regulations, jarring, and labeling 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: $95 plus HST

Honey pours from a centrifuge spout

Honey Harvesting: Hands-On (BEES 080)

Four 2020 dates to choose from: 
Saturday September 26, 9:00 am - 3:00 pm* 
Sunday September 27, 9:00 am - 3:00 pm*
Saturday October 3, 9:00 am - 3:00 pm* 
Sunday October 4, 9:00 am - 3:00 pm*

Prerequisite: Must be registered in the full certificate program

Participate in a full honey harvest day! 

Fee: $110 (plus HST) 

 

*These dates are weather- and bees-permitting. If it does not seem like the honey will be ready to harvest, there will be alternate dates to choose from.

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: Making Salves, Creams, and Balms (BEES 094)

Revised 2020 dates TBA

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: $60 (+HST) plus materials fee of $45

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)

Revised 2020 dates TBA

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 will leave with some 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: $60 (+HST) plus materials fee of $50

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

Beekeeping: Assembling a Hive (BEES 090)

2021 dates TBA

Assemble & Take Home an Urban Beehive!

We'll knock together an 8-frame Langstroth starter hive from pre-cut pieces, 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: $80 plus HST + materials $170

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

Beekeeping: Expanding Your Urban Beehive (BEES 092)

2021 date TBA

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

Fee: $80 (+HST) plus materials fee of $50 per box with frames (please indicate in advance how many boxes you would like to make to ensure adequate materials are available)

A bee sits behind a piece of beeswax

Beeswax Candle Making (BEES 098)

Revised 2020 dates TBA

Learn to process beeswax to remove impurities, then make rolled candles, hand-dipped tapers, tea lights, and small molded candles.

Fee: $60 (+HST) plus materials fee ($50)

A blue and white beehive stands tall in an apiary

Alternative Business Models for Apiaries (BEES 0910)

Revised 2020 dates TBA

Running a small-scale bee operation in the city presents a different set of challenges to those encountered in its rural counterpart and calls for fresh approaches. Guest speakers share their personal experiences setting up, and working within, several alternative, small-scale business models in the beekeeping world (HiveShare, Collective, Co-operative). Host yards, contracts, MOUs, and insurance are touched on.

Fee: $60 (+HST)

A pattern created from a bee icon

In Development: "Bees and Art" - working title (BEES 093)

Coming in 2021 

Watch for updates on this new workshop in development.

Fee: TBD (+HST), materials fee TBD

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 NOWtoronto.com