Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bee Keeping Part One - Meet the Bees!

One of the perks of my position with FoodShare is our partnership with the Toronto Beekeepers Co-op; in addition to the delicious honey that we share, the co-op permits a Foodshare employee to become a member and this year I got to be it! Because of my crazy schedule I have only been to meetings up till now but on Monday I donned my lovely new beekeeper suit and was part of the team which harvested the first of this season's honey from the hives on the roof of the Royal York Hotel!
Hard to believe that this building in the heart of downtown Toronto is home to honey bees but there are 5 hives installed as part of the rooftop gardens.
The rooftop gardens supply much of the pollen for the bees but they can fly up to 3 kilometers for other sources of food.
The bees are milling around the bottom of the hive because we have temporarily separated the top boxes ( called supers) from the lower ones to make harvesting easier.

We use a maze which allows the bees to enter the lower supers from above but they can't find their way back up
Each super contains a number of frames in which the bees build honeycombs of wax and fill with them with honey. The frames are removable.

We use small amounts of smoke to subdue the bees temporarily.
We remove the frames to see the state of honey production.
The bees will cling to the frames to try to protect the honey - we flick them off with a soft brush.
Finished honey is capped with a coating of wax. We only remove a frame if  50% or more of the honey is capped. Uncapped honey isn't ready- it lacks the correct sugar density and will ferment quickly.

Here I am in my beesuit- I look like an oompa- loompa!

Next up - extracting the delicious honey from the combs!


  1. You don't look at all like an oompa loompa! You rock the suit though! I think it's an awesome idea to have hives on the top of the Royal York. I wonder how many of those diners, dressed in their finest know there are bees and gardens up there? Keep up the awesomeness!

  2. My apartment building has rooftop gardens cultivated by residents. I knew about the Royal York bees and was so pleased to see many honey bees in my flowers this summer. I'm convinced they come from the Royal York about four blocks away! Three cheers for the work you are doing!
    - Brenda

  3. Carolyn, thank you, I don't mind looking ridiculous in any case because better that than stung! And the Royal York does mention both the honey and the gardens on their menus, as well as offering tours to hotel guests!

    Brenda, I'm sure some of the bees you're seeing are from the Royal York Hives and I'll bet they love your gardens!

  4. Callie, I just wanted to let you know I haven't received your e-mail about the beans. Maybe try sending it again?


  5. I haven't had a chance to email you but I'll try to get to that this week if I can find that post on your blog again