Mark Vanderende with his bee hive. (Grace Kennedy photo)

North Delta beekeeper looking to build apiary in Annieville

‘I think this community needs it. Delta needs it.’

It’s a warm sunny day in April, with dandelions swaying lazily in the breeze and bees buzzing about in the long grass. Annieville resident Mark Vanderende walks across his back lawn, arms and legs bare, face covered by mesh falling down from his large white hat.

In one hand, he carries a basket containing tongs, kindling and a lighter. In the other, he holds a smoking metal canister.

At his back fence, Vanderende has three wooden hives. Each is home to a colony of Aritaki honeybees, some from Chile and some from New Zealand. As he pries the wooden lid off the top of the tallest hive, bees cling to its underside, sunbathing on the warm wood.

“Oh baby, this is a beauty. This is awesome,” he says, looking inside. Bees crawl around the trays Vanderende has built for the honeycombs. Several are already dripping in honey.

Vanderende pokes around in the hive a little more, pulling out trays and inspecting them for eggs, but soon puts the hive back together.

“It disrupts their routine of things,” he says, putting the lid back on the hive. “So I like to just keep it simple. I see eggs, the queen’s there. Leave it for a week. I know what they’re doing.”

Honey drips out of one of the combs in Mark Vanderende’s hive. (Grace Kennedy photo)

Vanderende has six hives in his yard, and is planning to add two more over the summer. It’s a hobby he says has become an addiction over the past three years, and one that always keeps him interested.

“One of the things about bees is you’ll never … know enough about them, because they’re such fascinating animals,” the 46-year-old beekeeper told the North Delta Reporter. “Every time you open that hive you find something new or find a question that you need to answer.”

RELATED: New book about honey bees from Surrey poet laureate Saklikar and expert Winston

Vanderende said he had always been fascinated by bees, but had the same instinctive concerns that many urban dwellers have.

“You can’t put bees in a backyard — you’re going to upset the neighbours. You can’t have a dog and bees, you can’t have kids and bees,” he explained. “There’s all these things that go through people’s minds that put walls up and prevents them from looking at [bees] further.”

But when Vanderende and his wife Jodi moved on to the family property off Norum Road (Jodi belongs to the Norum clan — one of the founding families in Annieville), the ample space gave him the opportunity to indulge his fancy.

Now, Vanderende is looking to take his passion beyond just a backyard hobby.

“I want to build a bee apiary, a garden setting, a community place where people can learn and bring their kids and family, and really connect with saving the bees,” he said.

It’s not an impossible proposition. Attached to Vanderende’s property is an acre and a half of overgrown bush fronting River Road opposite Trinity Lutheran Church. He had originally intended to develop that section of the property, but geotechnical studies showed it wouldn’t be possible.

“I thought that was my exit strategy,” he said. “I thought I was going to be rich, build three houses and life’s good. But now it’s not happening.

“I’ve got to have bees.”

Mark Vanderende with one his his hives. (Grace Kennedy photo)

Vanderende’s vision is to build a community garden setting on that section of his property, complete with what he calls “bee hotels.”

“I’d like to have it as a learning centre, a community place for people to come and enjoy,” he said. “Really enhance Annieville.”

So far, Vanderende has partnered with Trinity Lutheran Church to get his idea off the ground, and has even brought his idea to Delta council. Months ago, a number of Delta staff toured the proposed apiary section of the property, which he hopes to donate to the city for the project. Vanderende is expecting the idea to come before council sometime in the coming weeks.

“I’m really keen and I’m driven,” he said about the project. “I want to do something for the community. I want to do something for the church, the road, and just connect it all.

“I think this community needs it. Delta needs it.”

SEE ALSO: Bumblebee colonies at risk of extinction

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