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Sustainable Urban Beekeeping | BK911

Now in its fifth year and in partnership with Humber College, the Humber Arboretum is pleased to offer a learning series centered around Sustainable Urban Beekeeping. Convenient hybrid delivery combines online theory courses offered both nights and weekends with in-person, hands-on sessions at the Centre for Urban Ecology and in the outdoor Honeybee Hub. 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, the Humber Arboretum's experienced beekeepers will get you started on the path to thriving urban hives that put the health of the bees first.

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 many hands-on courses have theory-based pre-requisites. Read individual descriptions for details.

 

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: 

  • February to April: While the bees are bunked down for the winter, take the three theory-based core courses online (BEES 010, 020, and 030) 
  • May to 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 to 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 to 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

 

*Please note that registration for hands-on courses working with the hives are limited both by the completion of pre-requisites and by the physical capacity of the Honeybee Hub.  

Testimonials 

I highly recommend the Sustainable Urban Beekeeping course! There is no beekeeping training around that is as comprehensive, hands on, and based on sustainable and organic practices. I used my education as a springboard to start my own beekeeping company and product company which is still going strong four years later! Fran is a wealth of knowledge and I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor.” ~ Saidy C. (2019)

"When I took your course I had already done a course but the amount I learned from [Fran] and John made the other course irrelevant. I really appreciated how you centered the bees' health over commercial interests which was very unlike the other course I took. I would totally recommend this course to anyone interested in developing knowledge, understanding, and deep appreciation for all bees." ~ Deb G. (2019)

Humber’s beekeeping course was amazing and helped me to become a knowledgeable beekeeper.  The classes balanced applied hands on examples and theory. The hands on bee yard experience gave me confidence to have my own hives.  The classes were engaging and fun, where we met new people and where we actually worked with the bees. Years later I still love hearing the hum of the hives up close. Spinning out honey produced by hives I nurture, I am thankful Humber offered these courses." ~ Marilyn (2017)

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)

Online course with live chat/Q&A

2023 Evening Option: Monday February 6, Tuesday February 7, and Wednesday February 8, 6:30 PM to 8:10 PM

OR

2023 Weekend Option: Saturday February 18 and Sunday February 19, 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM

While honeybees 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, personal philosophy behind the course, site selection, necessary equipment, laws & registration, and the beekeeping year.

Location: Online via Zoom (online presentations include live chat and Q&A)

2023 Fee: $113 including HST, plus system processing fee

 

Please note: A minimum number of participants is required for the course to proceed. Registration closes one week before the first class.

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

Native and Honeybees: Habitat and Forage (BEES 020)

Online course with live chat/Q&A

2023 Evening Option: Monday March 6, Tuesday March 7, and Wednesday March 8, 6:30 PM to 8:10 PM

OR

2023 Weekend Option: Saturday March 4 and Sunday March 5, 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM

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 (online presentations include live chat and Q&A)

2023 Fee: $113 including HST, plus system processing fee

 

Please note: A minimum number of participants is required for the course to proceed. Registration closes one week before the first class.

A honeybee collects pollen from a flower

Beekeeping Challenges (BEES 030)

Online course with live chat/Q&A

2023 Evening Option: Monday April 17, Tuesday April 18, and Wednesday April 19, 6:30 PM to 8:10 PM

OR

2023 Weekend Option: Saturday April 15 and Sunday April 16, 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM

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 (online presentations include online chat and Q&A)

2023 Fee: $113 plus system processing fee

 

A minimum number of participants is required for the course to proceed. Registration closes one week before the first class.

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

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

In person

Prerequisites: BEES 010, 020, 030

In-person bee yard sessions are kept small with most being capped at 5 or so participants. This is to facilitate individual learning and interaction with the hives, for participant safety, and so as not to unduly stress the bees

Due to the prerequisite requirements, specific dates for these workshops will only be provided to those who have successfully completed the theory courses and indicate a desire to continue with the hands-on component. As these courses are weather-dependent, available dates will be sent out to those on the list two weeks prior to the anticipated workshop.

Each Bee Yard workshop consists of two 2-hour sessions.

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 Humber 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: 2023 pricing TBA

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: 2023 pricing TBA

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.

Location: In person at the Humber Arboretum Honeybee Hub, or other hive locations on campus

Fee: 2023 pricing TBA

Registration links are only emailed directly to certificate candidates who have completed the three theory pre-requisites.

A collage of uncapping and spinning frames.

Beekeeping: Products of the Hive (BEES 070)

In person

2023 Date: TBA (one 5-hour weekend session, likely in July)

Hive products are more than just honey and beeswax. They include pollen and propolis, nucs and queens, and some surprises which we will explore. So what are the steps for a sustainable harvest? 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. Learning how to clean beeswax and build 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: In person at Humber College North Campus, 205 Humber College Blvd (building/room number TBA)

Fee: 2023 pricing TBA

Registration: Not yet available

 

Please note: A minimum number of participants is required for the course to proceed. Registration closes one week before the first class.

Honey pours from a centrifuge spout

Honey Harvesting: Hands-On (BEES 080)

In person.

Prerequisites: BEES 010 to 070

One 6-hour weekend session, typically offered in late September or early October.

Participate in a full honey harvest day! Participants are often surprised at how much preparation, clean-up and hard work are required for a honey harvest.

 

Usually the available dates and registration links for this session will only be sent out to certificate candidates who have completed all of the pre-requisites. However if there is room a session may be opened to the general public as well.

Fee: 2023 pricing TBA

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)

2023 Date:

Saturday February 11, 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM

Healing salves, creams, lip balms and bath balms take advantage of the healing properties of honey and beeswax. In this hands-on course you’ll learn how to make a healing infusion for use in salves and make lip balm, a healing salve, a facial cleanser, a moisturizing cream, a solid moisturizing body bar and a whipped butter for cracked heels, all for you to take home and enjoy.

Wear clothes you don’t mind getting messy and/or an apron.

Location: Centre for Urban Ecology, Humber Arboretum (the Humber Arboretum is located at the back of Humber College North campus, 205 Humber College Blvd. See the location of the Centre for Urban Ecology on Google Maps).

Fee: $75.00 Instructional Fee + HST = $84.75, plus $50.00 materials fee = $134.75 (does not include processing fee)

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)

In-person

Next 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. How to make two types of mead will be demonstrated and participants will actively make a third variation. You 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.

Wear clothes you don’t mind getting messy and/or an apron

Location: TBA

Fee: TBA

Three lit flower-shaped candles float in a bowl of water

Beeswax Candle Making (BEES 098)

Next dates TBA

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

Location: TBA

Fee: TBA

A blue and white beehive stands tall in an apiary

Alternative Business Models for Apiaries (BEES 0910)

Next 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.

Location: TBA

Fee: TBA

A glass with amber liquid, ice, a sprig of green, and a little swizzle stick topped with a bee

Cocktails and Mocktails with Honey

Online

Dates TBA 

The aim of Cocktails and Mocktails with Honey is to be a fun workshop, perhaps an antidote to a dreary late fall or winter afternoon, to demonstrate another way in which honey is versatile, and to inspire those planning on entertaining. We'll look at the history of cocktails, punches, shrubs, and mocktails, and some basic equipment and ingredients. Recipes will be provided in advance to allow registrants a chance to buy ingredients and then make a few of the beverages in real time along with the instructor. There will also be a demonstration on how to make jun, a refreshing beverage somewhat like kombucha in that it uses a Scoby but made with honey instead of sugar, and great in a cocktail or mocktail.”

Location: Online via Zoom

Fee: TBA

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