Have you noticed how fast Hamilton seems to be growing? It is quickly becoming a major hub for innovators, which is saying a lot since Southern Ontario already has quite an innovation corridor with Toronto and Kitchener/Waterloo. Here at CFMU, we want to bring you the stories of local Hamiltonian innovators and business owners.
Every Monday morning, we’ll be featuring an Innovation Spotlight as part of MorningFile, to showcase Hamiltonians that are on the cutting edge of business, research, innovation, and making innovation possible.
Our very first showcase was with Luc Peters, the Founder and Co-Owner of Humble Bee. Humble Bee offers high quality, local honey products and bees as well as expert bee-keeping services and education.
It is no secret that bee populations are suffering greatly. Recent years have seen bee populations plummeting as bees are exposed to systemic pesticides that weaken their hives and leave them susceptible to other threats such as mites, fungus, and harsh winters, among others. What many people don’t realize is how essential bees are to our everyday lives. For example, 1 in 3 bites of food you eat can be attributed to bees and other pollinators. They are incredibly important pollinators, which includes not just wild flowers, but also agricultural crops. Humble Bee is doing their part to try and raise public awareness of these problems as well as mentor and educate people about bees and beekeeping.
At first glance, beekeeping may seem like a fairly hands off kind of farming. Bees fly about and collect their own food, build their own honey combs, care for the own young….right? Well..yes, but it’s not that simple. Beekeeping is actually fairly time intensive. If hives are not cared for properly, the bees can quickly be overtaken by diseases and become not only unhealthy, but also a risk to other hives in the area that may come in contact with poorly cared for bees. Just like any other farm animal, bees require upkeep and care. This is a fact that Humble Bee is doing their best to make Hamilton aware of during their mentoring and workshops.
CFMU felt that an interview with Luc Peters and Humble Bee wouldn’t be fully accurate without a hands on experience of beekeeping, so Robyn Edgar, the Innovation Spotlight host, joined Luc in the field for an afternoon adventure of honey and hives.
“I joined Luc just outside of Hamilton off of Route 6 to tend to some hives that he has relatively close to the Royal Botanical Gardens. When we arrived, Luc told me a bit about what we would be doing. We were going to complete the first steps in raising new queen bees!
Before we did anything, Luc started up his smoker. “If you’re going to pick one tool and only one tool, the smoker is the only essential tool for beekeeping”, he said. He then explained that to be able to safely enter a hive, you use the smoke to subdue the bees. A light spritz of smoke and they become fairly docile. So docile that Luc wasn’t even wearing the stereotypical beekeeping face veil or suit. There was no need for the additional measures.
I don’t want to mislead you into thinking that all you need is smoke and you can go and Winnie-the-pooh any old bee hive you find out in the wild. A part of the reason that Humble Bee’s hives are safe to care for in this way is due to the nature of the bees themselves. The bees that Humble Bee raises are specifically chosen because of their relaxed disposition. Humble Bee places hives in urban areas, so it is essential that their bees aren’t aggressive. No one would want to host a hive if they were going to be dive-bombed every time they got too close.
So back to the bees-ness. We got the smoker up and running and then headed for the hives. We needed to select a few honeycombs that had a decent selection of larvae for transferring into a hive that didn’t have a queen yet. To raise new queens, the larvae must be very new.
Once Luc had picked a few combs, we relocated back to his car to transfer the larvae into artificial cells, that were then placed into another hive. The new hive was lacking a queen, so the bees will raise these larvae to become new queens. “The trick,” Luc said, “is to make sure the larvae don’t hatch while in the hive. If that happens, you’d end up with one queen.. And not all of the queens that you were attempting to raise.” In other words, this is not a simple process.
We finished up our transplanting and packed up the car to head off to pick up more gear. Beekeeping is hard work.”
For the full interview with Luc Peters and our field trip, check it out on SoundCloud below: