The next time you’re near Richardson Stadium, you might notice a buzz of activity.
The 240,000-bee apiary is part of a two year long pilot project run in a joint partnership between Aramark—the University’s food provider—and Queen’s Hospitality Services.
The idea behind starting the apiary originated from the Queen’s Sustainability Working Group. Hospitality Services’ Theresa Couto, registered dietitian and sustainability manager, said the unit is always looking for innovative and new ways to be sustainable.
“The benefits to an apiary are inarguable—repopulating an endangered insect, providing a source of sustainable local food production, and contributing to plant and animal diversity,” Couto said in an interview with The Journal.
The Housing and Ancillary Services sustainability framework closely aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2, 11, 12, and 15. These goals range from zero hunger to responsible consumption and production.
Couto went over the rationale behind choosing the West Campus location and the use of the honey harvested on campus.
“With West Campus, we are still benefiting our campus ecosystem […] The hives are situated near the community gardens. So with that, there’s an opportunity for the bees to pollinate, there’s a water source there—so it’s a great location.”
“It’s a great opportunity to bring that sustainability and wellness focus to those living in the West end of campus.”
With the 480 pounds of honey harvested so far, the apiary is being integrated back into the Queen’s community for use.
“The plan is for 50 per cent of the harvest to be used in our campus recipes that would be in residence dining, fresh to go products, the Bake Shop, as well as events, catering, and the Donald Gordon Hotel and Conference Centre,” Couto said.
“Then the remainder of the honey is available for sale at several retail locations.”
Don Forster, the registered beekeeper who works at the apiary, described his work and the meaning behind working with bees in a statement to The Journal.
“Bee farming is both rewarding and at times frustrating. Working with honey bees is a way for me to connect with nature,” Forster said. “When I am in an apiary I feel calm and focused on what is going on inside the hive. Beekeeping is a form of mental health therapy.”
Forster said his work benefits local farmers in the area, since bees provide the valuable ability to pollinate farms.
“The frustrating part of bee farming is trying to manage all the negative environmental impacts that affect a colony. There are several factors that impact the health of a colony,” he said.
The primary concerns Forster has come from the loss of plant and bee diversity, combined with a reduction in habitat and forage. Compounded with large amounts of toxins in the environment, the bee population is facing challenges.
Forster highlights beekeeping’s importance to a wide range of sustainable industries, such as candle making, wax making, and, in some cases, healing medicines. These often depart from the traditional conception of honey as just a source of food.
Along with the apiary pilot project, Couto said Hospitality Services is working to implement sustainability initiatives across the board.
“It goes beyond just environmental sustainability. We have our Peach Market, which opened Sept. 12, and that’s a partnership between the AMS and student affairs. Then a lot more focus this year on our good to go reusable container initiative in order to reduce the volume of single use waste.”
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