Community bee gardens in Surrey begin to create a buzz

With bee colonies dying off in shocking numbers, local initiative aims to educate people and also help Surrey's food bank.

Leanne Buhler

Leanne Buhler

CLOVERDALE —The buzz around the Honeybee Centre these days is about a project to build community bee gardens at various places around Surrey.

With bee colonies dying off in shocking numbers, the initiative aims to educate people and also help a local food bank.

The goal of the philanthropic effort is to build 10 bee gardens, each with two honeybee colonies, every year until 100 such pollinating colonies are established in the city.

A prototype 100-square-foot bee garden has been built behind the Honeybee Centre, at Fraser Highway and 176th Street. The garden’s bee-friendly plants – hollyhock, lavender and others – are just beginning to grow, and the hope is bees will soon colonize the pair of hives.

“This is the look we’re going for, the natural cedar look,” said Leanne Buhler, operations manager of the business. “This was something people could see before the hosts committed to the project, what it would look like on their property. Basically, it’s a 10-by-10 garden with chicken wire.”

The bee gardens have been built, or are being built, at four sites in Surrey this spring, including Historic Stewart Farm, the new PLOT Sustainable Food Garden in Newton, Cedar Grove Organic Community Garden and Urban Safari Rescue Society, and a fifth garden is pending at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Surrey campus.

Honey eventually collected at each of the gardens will either be given to Surrey Food Bank for distribution to its clients, or sold and the proceeds given to the food bank.

Not only is the project a charitable exercise, it’s about education, too.

“Mostly, this gives people an idea of what they can grow in their backyard to support bees as well,” Buhler explained. “Hopefully the gardens will help people understand what bees are, why they’re important, what are pollinators, what are native pollinators, and what people can do for them as they’re battling threats against their longevity.”

Host sites are needed for the bee gardens, as well as volunteers to help plant and maintain them; CLICK HERE for details, or call 604-575-BEES (2337).

“Creating 100 colonies over the next five years doesn’t make much of an impact – it’s a little bit, it helps, but mostly this is about getting the public to talk about problems and some of the solutions for bees,” Buhler noted. “It’s about the bigger picture and how people can help the bees.”

A project launch event will be held May 29 at the Honeybee Centre, with garden hosts, volunteers and donors in attendance.

Also at the facility, construction continues on a storage building to be used for the new commercial beekeeping program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

“They started the program in January, and we collaborated with them on the curriculum,” Buhler said. “There is a lack of commercial beekeepers now, because a lot of those second-generation beekeepers are leaving the industry, which is getting more challenging, more difficult. There’s a need to start training new people to pick up the slack.”

tom.zillich@thenownewspaper.com