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Bee nice: West Vancouver care home welcomes addition of new beehive

The beehive, home to 30,000 honey bees, gives Amica sweet options for programming
Lately, things have been buzzing at a local care home.

At the end of May, residents at Amica West Vancouver got a sweet surprise after a beehive, along with 30,000 resident honey bees, was installed in the back courtyard of the long-term care facility and private living residence.

“Our residents have been very connected to nature throughout their lives,” said Max Arignon, community relations director at Amica West Van. “This is an opportunity for them to connect with their roots.”

Amica partnered with Alvéole, a Vancouver-based urban beekeeping organization that aims to install honey bee hives at businesses and schools, in order to get the hive installed.

Founded in 2013, Alvéole’s mission is to help people understand the importance of bees, build ecological awareness, and help cities and businesses become more sustainable.

“It starts a conversation about the importance of protecting bees and pollinators,” said Arignon. “It makes for really interesting programming – the beekeeper will be coming every month, and it creates workshops where the residents can help collect honey and learn about the bees.”

In addition, Arignon said Amica’s resident chef is excited to collect honey from the hive to use in his dining program, in concert with the outdoor herb garden and other goodies grown on-site.

Many residents have expressed their fondness for the program so far, said Arignon, noting many people can see the hive from their balconies above the courtyard.

In addition to enjoying the spoils of fresh honey, the new hive also has a didactic purpose for those residents interested in learning more about the importance of honeybees more broadly.

“The residents can gather when the beekeeper comes outside. She will actually take the beehive apart, take the frames out, show them the different stages – the larval stages, the importance of the queen and their entire life-cycle,” explained Arignon. “She speaks to how the bees relate to the environment around them and what importance they have to pollinating all of the flowers, not only at Amica but in the surrounding neighbourhood.”

Like all other retirement communities and long-term care homes in B.C., the pandemic has been a challenge for residents and their families.

Spirits were buoyed where possible over the last year. In December 2020, for example, about a dozen horses and their riders did a slow gallop in front of Amica West Van in order to spread a little Christmas joy from a COVID-safe distance.

The parade – primarily organized by a woman whose father resides at Amica and who runs a horse rescue in Maple Ridge – saw participants don face masks, placards with uplifting messages, flags, and plenty of green and red.

As we’ve moved into the new year, rules restricting visitors to care homes have loosened considerably.

In fact, coinciding with the arrival of the new beehive, residents’ families have now been granted permission to eat in the facility’s dining room with their loved once again, according to Arignon, noting they too will be able to enjoy the honey produced by the busy backyard bees.

“It’s very emotional for us.”