BeeComm, Community and Courses for Small Scale Beekeepers

Edmonton Youth Beekeeping Club

The Northlands/Prince’s Charities Edmonton Youth Bee Club

From Spring until Fall, students from across the Edmonton gathed at Northlands to learn about honeybees. Sponsored by the Prince’s Charities, twenty students, acged 13 to 18, managed ten beehives on site. Each week, weather permitting, we covered important beekeeping topics and performed routine hive inspections.

By fall, student obtained a City of Edmonton regozniged beekeeping certificate and had an entire beekeeping season under their belt. The Edmonton Youth Beekeeping Club was started in 2015 and run until 2019 before being stopped by the pandemic. Post pandemic, Northlands rolled the bee club into their urban 4H club.

The following is a testimony written by Edmonton Beekeeping Club memeber, Jacob Tombs in 2017.

Testamonial From Bee Club Member Jacob Tombs

“Hi, my name is Jacob Tombs, I’m 14 years old and this year was my first year beekeeping. When I started bee club in May, I had no idea how to keep bees and now I feel confident that I could maintain some hives all by myself.  What I must thank for this is the Northlands Bee Club. The Northlands Bee Club is a group of young beekeepers that meets every Thursday from early May to early November (roughly one beekeeping season). Some people are completely new to the club (like me) and for others it was their second year, as Bee Club was only founded in 2016. Under the guidance of Dustin Bajer, we learned the basics of how to keep bees and some other interesting information on bees.

BeeComm, Community and Courses for Small Scale Beekeepers
Edmonton Youth Bee Club Students Inspecting Beehives

A Season of Hands On Beekeeping Experience

There are several reasons why Bee Club was very fun, useful and interesting. First, it is completely unique. As far as I know, there is no other group in the city of Edmonton that teaches young people how to keep bees. One of the things I really enjoyed was how over the summer, the bees built up. The hives started out small, only one or two boxes, and then by the fall, some hives were up to six boxes high. I found it very satisfying to see the bees grow in number and in strength. Another thing that was awesome was the taste of the honey. Most of the honey you buy in the grocery store has a bland plain taste, but our honey had a lighter more interesting taste that comes from all the different species of flowers in people’s gardens and in the river valley.

Beekeeping Fieldtrips

Another one of my favourite things about Bee Club was the field trips, we went on three throughout the time that bee club met. The first one was a trip to Beary Berry Honey to see what a commercial beekeeping operation was like and to Alberta Nukes, which makes nukes (mini hives that you get in the spring to create new hives) to learn about nuc hives.

Edmonton Youth Bee Club students leaning about making Nuc colonies at Beary Berry Honey
Edmonton Youth Bee Club students learning about making Nuc colonies at Beary Berry Honey

Our second field trip was a walking tour of some of the hives in the downtown Edmonton area, we visited hives at the Edmonton Event Centre and the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald and a protected tree because Dustin happens to also be studying protected trees in Edmonton.

Local Beekeeper Patty Milligan showing the Youth Bee Club students the hive she manages at the Edmonton Convention Centre
Local Beekeeper Patty Milligan showing the Youth Bee Club students the hive she manages at the Edmonton Convention Centre

The last field trip, which was my favourite, was a trip to one of the NAIT labs, where we studied bees under a microscope and dissected them.

Edmonton Youth Bee Club students dissecting a honeybee under a microscope doing a lab at NAIT
Edmonton Youth Bee Club students dissecting a honeybee under a microscope doing a lab at NAIT.

Finally, I met a lot of new people that had the same interests as me, and I learned a lot of things that had absolutely nothing to do with beekeeping but that were interesting all the same. For example, did you know that carrots flower in the second year after they are planted?

In conclusion, Bee Club is interesting, fun and useful if you ever want to keep bees, and the club is (amazingly!) completely free!”

Reviving the Edmonton Youth Beekeeping Club

l loved running the beekeeping club and would love to see something similar in the future. As a beekeeper and educator, I run into students wanting to keep bees at their school. I’ve even created a space within the BeeComm community for likeminded students to connect. What a proper reboot of the Edmonton Youth Beekeeping Club is:

  • A convenient location to keep five to ten hives
  • A grant, sponsorship opportunity, or funding model to pay for equipment and instruction.
Dustin Bajer, BeeComm, The Bee Community for Small-Scale and Backyard Beekeepers
BeeComm – Community and Courses for Small-Scale and Backyard Beekeepers