It’s been a full year of beekeeping and the MaRS Bee Committee is thrilled with the success of the project. In 2012, our pilot year, we only had bees on the MaRS roof for half of the year. However, 2013 provided us with a full year of beekeeping, as well as many lessons and enjoyable moments. We still have much to learn, but as with everything in life, it’s good to look back to see how far we’ve come along.
In April, when the weather was warm enough, we went up to the roof to check on our bees to see how they had fared over the winter. It was our first lesson in beekeeping heartbreak, as we discovered that one of our hives did not survive the winter. We were faced with beginning a search for a new colony.
After finding a reputable bee breeder, we purchased a new bee colony whose temperament and work ethic would be ideal for our downtown Toronto location. We chose to go with a nuc, which included a queen bee and four frames of worker and drone bees. Here we are installing the new frames into our hive.
Our bees were phenomenal this year and began producing excess honey—that is, honey that was in addition to the amount required for the bees to survive throughout the winter. We began adding additional boxes with smaller frames (called supers) that would be used to harvest this excess honey at the end of the season.
In July we formalized the MaRS Bee Committee and began training our new members in beekeeping. There were a lot of trials and errors, but our bees were very kind to us as we learned how to conduct regular check-ups and what to look for. One of our major takeaways was that we needed to get smaller beekeeping suits, as four of our five committee members are women and the traditional suits are made for tall men.
We also held a waffle breakfast event to raise funds for our project, which is supported solely by private donations. We raised enough money to purchase additional equipment for our growing hives, as well as to cover registration costs for the upcoming year.
During our check-ups, we began to see full frames of honey in the supers, which meant that we would definitely have honey to harvest. Here is one of our new beekeepers holding up a full frame of capped honey with some of our worker bees.
After a full year of labour from both the bees and the committee members, we held our first honey harvest event in which we harvested 60 pounds of honey from our two hives! Here is one of our committee members pouring unfiltered honey out of the extractor, which we then double-strained and bottled.
After we bottled all of the honey and finalized the labels, we finally had jars of honey to sell! Because of the limited quantity of honey, we chose to sell it to MaRS staff only this year!
After a long year of work, our committee members finally got their own jars of honey as reward for their hard work throughout the year.