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Date night: Learn how to keep backyard bees

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Normally, I would say bees are firmly in the top 10 list of things to avoid on a date. However, if you’re looking for something a little different, and something that could potentially lead to a shared hobby, Edmonton’s selection of introductory beekeeping courses are worth looking into.

Urban beekeeping is on the rise in Edmonton since a ban on the practice was lifted in 2015. As of March 15, 2021, there are 220 active licenses for urban bee farms, compared to just 41 in March 2016, according to City of Edmonton data. Even MacEwan University got in on the action in 2018, installing a bee hotel on one of the roofs that now houses about half a million bees.

Proponents argue the widespread practice helps with pollination in urban areas and with the conservation of honeybees. Honeybee populations have been in decline in North America and Europe since at least 2003, and urban beekeeping is supposed to help maintain a stable population. And, you get to harvest and eat your own honey.

This makes beekeeping an interesting domestic hobby if you and your partner are looking for something new to get into together and have a yard, but even if you’re not interested or don’t have a yard, in the short term the process of learning about bees and how to take care of them can make for a few fun dates.

In Edmonton, you need to get a certificate to qualify for a backyard beekeeping license. This means taking a beginner apiculture course that teaches the process of keeping bees and harvesting honey, the safety issues involved, and general information about honeybees that will help you to provide for them as best as possible. There are a few places that can award you a certificate recognized by the City of Edmonton.

Hive World, a honeybee supply store, offers a two-day course. The only issue with this course is that it is quite an expensive commitment: you pay $325 for the whole certification up front, which takes place over two consecutive days, meaning if you decide you don’t like it after a few hours, you can’t really drop out.

Dustin Bajer, a permaculture enthusiast of local fame, offers a much more convenient and date-friendly course structure that he teaches out of the John Janzen Nature Centre. His course is divided into four, three-hour parts, and each one can be completed independently. So, if you and your partner want to learn about honeybee natural history as it relates to Alberta, you can sign up for Beekeeping 1: All About Honeybees for just $50.

Generally, beekeeping courses are currently conducted remotely, over Zoom, and would make for an educational alternative to movie night, but this date idea will get even better as the COVID pandemic hopefully subsides over the next year, and you can take in-person classes once again. The real fun is getting a hands-on education, and watching the look of horror on the more squeamish member of your relationship’s face as they hold a rack full of bees for the first time.

So, if you are looking for a day activity that is out of the ordinary, beekeeping courses are a worthwhile, if not somewhat expensive option. Who knows, you may find you want to get yourselves a couple of hives.

Image courtesy of rawpixel.

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