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Urban Hives on Our Rooftops: Beekeeper Visits

28 May 2021

For four years now, we’ve been involved in saving the bees, the busy workers who play a crucial role in maintaining biodiversity.

In collaboration with the Canadian company, Alvéole, we’ve installed a total of eight urban hives on the roofs of our stores in Old Quebec, Laval, Mississauga, and Vancouver, and adopted over 400,000 bees!

Beekeepers visit them regularly and take actions to ensure their well-being. Here are the key steps to keeping our bees healthy:

Opening in the spring Opening in the spring

When winter ends, it’s time to strip the hives of the insulation that keeps the colony alive during winter. Why? To give the colony the space it needs to grow, to check the condition of the hive’s components, and to ensure the availability of necessary resources until the first flowers blossom.

Colony division Colony division

When the flowers begin to bloom, it’s important to divide the hive to balance out the number of resources and the brood. This step is essential for preventing a phenomenon that should be avoided in urban areas: swarming. Swarming is when a colony splits into two populations. The queen leaves the hive, accompanied by many of her worker bees, to form a new home (swarm).

Summer visit Summer visit

The colony grows quickly at this time of year, so staying vigilant is key! Beekeepers inspect the hive to ensure that the queen has enough room to lay eggs, that the balance of resources is maintained, and that the colony has no intention of swarming.

Harvest preparation Harvest preparation

The addition of the queen bee excluder is an important step in preparing for the honey harvest. Four to eight weeks before harvest, the beekeepers’ mission is to find the queen among the two brood chambers and isolate her in the bottom chamber, placing the queen bee excluder between the two floors. This accessory enables beekeepers to collect the royal jelly without compromising the head of the hive. And finally, seven days before the harvest, they set up the bee escape boards to keep the bees away and make harvesting easier.

Honey harvesting and processing Honey harvesting and processing

There are several steps involved in harvesting honey: recovering the honey frames, brushing bees off the frame, and transporting the frames for extraction. In addition, the hive should be reduced to a single chamber in preparation for winter and the colony should immediately be treated for varroa mite (a parasite). 

Honey extraction Honey extraction

Once the honey chambers and frames have been harvested, it’s time to extract the precious nectar stored inside the honeycombs. Beekeepers use specialized equipment for this task, such as an upcapping tank and forks, a centrifuge extractor, filters, a settling tank, and jars.

Feeding and winterizing the hive Feeding and winterizing the hive

Feeding the colony is a necessary step. Without nourishment, bees will lack the resources they need to get through winter. Beekeepers supply them with sugar syrup, and, as temperatures drop below ten degrees Celsius, they protect the hive from the cold and strong winds with an insulating material and a Styrofoam cover. Let the winter begin!

Want to try our bees' honey? At the moment, they are slowly waking up from their winter nap and will be working hard all summer.
The fruits of their labour will be available in stores in the fall.