Whitehorse gardeners push for urban beekeeping

About 40,000 bees could be buzzing around the corner of Seventh Avenue and Ray Street in Whitehorse if a group of gardeners have their way.

About 40,000 bees could be buzzing around the corner of Seventh Avenue and Ray Street in Whitehorse if a group of gardeners have their way.

A zoning application is underway to allow for the construction of two beehives at that spot. And while the prospect of having thousands of honey bees flying around a residential neighbourhood may be concerning to some, there’s nothing to fear, according to the president of the Downtown Urban Gardeners Society.

“It sounds like a lot of bees but these are different than the ones in cartoons,” said Randy Lamb.

“If we’re talking about Africanized bees or yellow jackets that’s different. Honey bees are quite docile and very business-oriented.”

As Lamb explained it to members of city council at Monday evening’s meeting, there is a longstanding history of beekeeping in the territory.

According to his records, there have been apiaries here since the 1980s.

There are between 15 and 20 beehives in the city alone, he said.

But Lamb wants to make sure these beehives are legally legitimate and wants to set the stage for residential beekeeping in Whitehorse, he said.

The Downtown Urban Gardeners Society is applying to amend the zoning at their community garden to allow for an apiary.

The community garden is currently zoned PE-Environmental Protection. According to a report from administration, this zone allows for the cultivation or growing of plants on a conditional use.

Apiaries are permitted for “hobby agriculture,” a use currently allowed only in country residential zones.

The proposed amendment is to allow hobby agriculture in the society’s garden.

Cities across Canada have been amending their bylaws to make it possible for that to happen.

Last month, city council in Winnipeg approved a zoning bylaw amendment to allow beehives on the rooftops of downtown buildings.

Lamb hopes the bees will produce at least 20 pounds of surplus honey per hive, some of which will go to the Whitehorse Food Bank while the rest will be shared among members of the society.

He also anticipates a 30 to 40 per cent increase in berry production, as a result of pollination.

Lamb is organizing an information session at the Whitehorse Public Library in early April, with the goal of dispelling some of the myths about bees.

These aren’t the kind that will swarm and attack passersby, he said.

“I can see most of these bees travelling the greenbelt around the clay cliffs, among the patches of fireweed and sweet clover,” he said.

“The beehives are basically the airport and they’d be taking off and going to work. If it (their presence) wasn’t advertised chances are neighbours wouldn’t even see them in their yards.”

First reading of the bylaw will take place at next week’s meeting.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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