Town hall abuzz with workers

DNV puts 2 beehives atop municipal hall

THE District of North Vancouver got sweeter last month with the addition of thousands of honey bees on the roof of municipal hall.

"The bees, they're the canary in the coal mine and they're dying off," said David Macdonald, the beekeeper charged with overseeing two hives totalling between 30,000 and 50,000 bees on a platform on municipal hall.

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The hives are particularly important in light of the Colony Collapse Disorder which has ravaged the honey bee population in the United States, resulting in losses exceeding 40 per cent of the bee population since 2007, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

"Our environment's under attack, and we can take some small, incremental steps as individuals to make our community more livable," Macdonald explained.

The local bee population has also taken a hard hit according to Eric Stromgren, first vice-president with the B.C. Honey Producers' Association.

"We've been having major colony losses in B.C. since the winter of 2005/2006, at least," Stromgren said.

While the high losses don't constitute Colony Collapse Disorder, Stromgren said an average of 30 per cent of B.C. hives have been lost each year.

Part of the blame for the declining bee population resides with the limited agriculture that dominates many major farms, according to Macdonald.

"You've got these gigantic farms and it's only one crop, and it's a desert for bees," he said. "The maintaining of bees by the hobby beekeeper is what's going to save them."

The bees tend to roam within an approximate fivekilometre radius of the rooftop hive, according to Macdonald.

"Rooftop beekeeping is great because there are so many varied sources of pollen and nectar," he said.

Macdonald said he's hopeful gardeners in the community will do their part to help the hive.

"What people can do in the community is they can plant bee-friendly gardens," he said.

Macdonald recommended cutting out chemicals and pesticides while planting durable flowers and plants to help the bee population thrive.

The municipal hall hives should also help correct a few misconceptions about honey bees, according to Macdonald.

"Those things that are buzzing around your potato salad and hamburger are wasps. Bees are vegetarians," Macdonald said, explaining bees are rarely dangerous. "When bees swarm they're absolutely non-aggressive."

Macdonald was bound to his couch while recuperating from surgery when his wife presented him with a book that delved into the secret life of bees.

The longtime firefighter turned fire investigator said he started studying bees and their effect on the environment.

"I've been beekeeping ever since," he said.

Macdonald wrote a letter to council and after several conversations with Coun. Lisa Muri, Macdonald said they approached him about tending the municipal hall hive.

It's a job Macdonald usually does while wearing a T-shirt and shorts, he said.

"The bees that we keep here are really non-aggressive," Macdonald said.

"Every once in a while I get stung," he said.

The two hives could produce up to 60 pounds of honey annually, according to a release from the district.

The apiary will be closed to the public.

jshepherd@nsnews.com

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