All abuzz at Red River College

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Red River College has been partnering with Beeproject Apiaries to foster a population of honeybees and is now taking a step forward in this sustainability project.
Red River College has been partnering with Beeproject Apiaries to foster a population of honeybees and is now taking a step forward in this sustainability project.

On July 24, Red River College Notre Dame Campus unveiled its new pollinator garden. Guests toured the rooftop hives and learned how bees are keeping themselves busy making delicious honey in urban settings.

Urban beekeeping, one of many innovative and green initiatives offered by the college as a way to engage staff and students in sustainability efforts on campus and at home, has contributed to the college being named one of Canada’s Greenest Employers for the ninth straight year.

“Staff and student engagement is critical for the success of any of the sustainability projects that Red River College initiates, and we have seen that many areas of the college are eager to get involved and make sustainability a priority within their departments,” Sara MacArthur, director of sustainability at RRC, said.

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Red River College has been partnering with Beeproject Apiaries to foster a population of honeybees and is now taking a step forward in this sustainability project.

Red River College has been partnering with Beeproject Apiaries to foster a population of honeybees and is now taking a step forward in this sustainability project.

On July 24, Red River College Notre Dame Campus unveiled its new pollinator garden. Guests toured the rooftop hives and learned how bees are keeping themselves busy making delicious honey in urban settings.

Urban beekeeping, one of many innovative and green initiatives offered by the college as a way to engage staff and students in sustainability efforts on campus and at home, has contributed to the college being named one of Canada’s Greenest Employers for the ninth straight year.

“Staff and student engagement is critical for the success of any of the sustainability projects that Red River College initiates, and we have seen that many areas of the college are eager to get involved and make sustainability a priority within their departments,” Sara MacArthur, director of sustainability at RRC, said.

Worker bees feed the queen while she is still in her cocoon.

PHOTO BY LIGIA BRAIDOTTI

Worker bees feed the queen while she is still in her cocoon.

“We were fortunate to partner with the grounds department, who went over and above to create this beautiful pollinator garden at the Notre Dame Campus for everyone — not only our pollinator friends but also students and staff — to engage with and enjoy.”

The pollinator garden, located along the walking path on the southeast grounds of the campus, features various species of flowers and plants that will support different pollinators. They include harebells, black-eyed susans, and honeybees’ favourite, giant hyssop. These flowers will be responsible for attracting birds, butterflies, hummingbirds, and goldfinches. 

RRC has three hives installed on the rooftop, which will produce approximately 100 kilograms of honey to be sold at the campus stores and college-run farmers’ markets held throughout the year. 

While at the rooftop, Chris Kirouac and Lindsay Nikkel of Beeproject Apiaries showed guests how friendly bees are. Guests even had the chance to hold a drone (a male bee) in their hands and attested that they are not to be feared.

Although Kirouac used smoke to calm the bees before removing the beehive covers, the bees were too busy producing honey to chase after guests. 

The beehives at Red River College produce approximately 100 kilograms of honey every year.

PHOTO BY LIGIA BRAIDOTTI

The beehives at Red River College produce approximately 100 kilograms of honey every year.

Nikkel explained that 98 per cent of the hive is populated by female bees who perform all tasks — feeding babies, bringing  pollen and nectar, and protecting the colony while the queen bee lays eggs. The drones are two per cent of the hive, and their sole responsibility is to mate with the queen. After that, they are kicked out of the colony by the worker bees during the winter.

Honeybees are native to Africa and Europe. The ones at Red River College are European honeybees because they are more adaptable to Winnipeg’s harsh winters.

The types of flowers these bees extract pollen and nectar from directly affect their population. Kirouac and Nikkel explained that the more diversity, the better. Nowadays, rural settings are considered a threat to honeybees as they will have a feast while plants are growing, but will starve once they are harvested. Pesticides and other chemicals used in farming also affect bees.

Kirouac added planting in a more sustainable way not only benefits the bees.

“The honeybee is sort of the solution and has been for thousands of years to pollinate the crops…once you start thinking ‘OK, how do I reduce pesticides, how do I increase 

diversity of flowers?’ and so on, that the things that will help the honeybee, will also help the native pollinators,” Kirouac said.

For more information, go to beeproject.ca

Ligia Braidotti

Ligia Braidotti
Community journalist — The Times

Ligia Braidotti is the community journalist for The Times.
Email her at ligia.braidotti@canstarnews.com

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