Toronto could become Canada's first Bee City

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T.O. Bee or not T.O. Bee? That’s the question.

And members of the city’s parks and environment committee believe they have the answer.

With approval from city council and a successful application to Bee City Canada, Toronto could officially become the first Canadian Bee City by the end of March.

It’s all about increasing the city’s work in protecting pollinators and growing the population, said Michelle Berardinetti, the councillor who’s got everyone buzzing about the idea.

“An added designation is about public education and community involvement,” she said. “Our city is already doing a lot in bee farming and protection, and we need to serve as a leading example to the rest of Canada.”

Toronto is home to more than 300 species of bees and hundreds of other pollinators, which makes it one of the country’s most diverse areas when it comes to pollination.

Programs to support pollination already exist in places such as the Evergreen Brick Works, the Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat and High Park’s Black Oak Savannah. Bees are also being raised in hives on the roofs of several downtown buildings, including the Royal York.

An official Bee City certification is the next logical step in showing the city’s commitment and will offer a chance for broader collaboration, Berardinetti said

City staff is working on a report that will be tabled to council early next month. Assuming it’s approved, the city’s application can make a bee line to the appropriate authorities.

Berardinetti, herself a bee and butterfly gardener, said the importance of bees can’t be overstated.

“We make billions of dollars off their work, but they’re not exactly paid for it,” she said, adding the least people could do is to ensure their habitat is properly protected. “If we didn’t have bees, there are so many fruits and vegetables that actually wouldn’t exist.”

Bee City

Downtown Toronto – of all places – is a great place to keep bees. Julie White of the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association says the city’s diverse forage – its wide array of types of trees and flowers – and warmer weather make beekeeping ideal. The only setback is a provincial rule stipulating hives must be 30 metres behind the property line, but White says the OBA is working on having the often unenforced rule scrapped to encourage urban beekeeping. And now, Toronto just may become the country’s Bee City.

Here are some of Toronto’s apiaries keeping the city abuzz.

U of T Bees

Faculty Club, 41 Willcocks St.

The University of Toronto Beekeeping Education Enthusiast Society (B.E.E.S.) keeps three hives on the rooftop of the university’s faculty club. It also maintains two at Trinity College. That’s about 150,000 bees between the two locations. Aside from U of T B.E.E.S.’s hives, the school has hives in its Sky Garden, New College, Earth Sciences Centre and at the University of Toronto Scarborough’s Social Sciences Building.

Toronto Botanical Garden

777 Lawrence Ave E

The hives at Toronto’s Botanical Garden are maintained by the Toronto Beekeepers Co-operative. The group also gives workshops on how to keep urban hives for people who, like them, are concerned by the worldwide drop in honeybee populations.

Downsview Park

The Toronto Beekeepers Co-operative and Peter Chorabik of Toronto Bee Rescue maintain bee hives inside Downsview Park, near Keele and Sheppard, near the park’s greenhouses. The hives are part of the park’s urban agriculture, which includes others harvests as well.