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Algonquin’s destroyed bee hives make a comb-back

After four of the college’s five bee hives, located behind the vet tech building, collapsed last March, instructors working in the food-related programs and courses have replaced them.

Further, instructors from the field to fork course and the theory of food program are considering moving the system over to the Canada Agriculture Museum sometime in Spring 2018.

“The tops of the hives were removed,” said David Fairbanks, culinary arts professor. “We were shocked that we hadn’t lost them all.”

Once the other four were exposed, the hives did not survive. The college had to replace the four that were lost. The instructors still don’t know for sure what led to the removal of the hive tops.

Luckily later in March, the surviving bees began to leave the last hive, attracted to the surrounding dandelions.

The old and new hives are maintained by Fairbanks and fellow culinary arts professors Daniel Halden, Steve Price, Scott Warrick and Sean Edwards.

“They have just established,” said Fairbanks of the new hives. “They’ve done very, very well.”

If they survive this winter, they should begin producing honey starting next year. The bees now have enough honey for themselves, but not enough to start harvesting.

For the colder months of the year, the hives are bundled together. They will be wrapped in wool blankets, sawdust and then more wool.

“It’s almost like a sawdust pillow for insulation,” said Fairbanks.

To finish it off, wood palettes are used as sides and will also go on top to keep all of the sawdust in place.

Through applied research, students are given the opportunity to work with the bees.

The hives are being monitored every minute using a Wi-Fi-enabled system that monitors heat, humidity, sound and weight. There is also an added camera feature to be added.

“We will basically be able to track the movement of the bees,” said Fairbanks.

This way, in the winter when the bees cannot be disturbed, students can still view what is going on inside.

The next step is a potential relocation to the museum so it is more accessible to high school students as well. This would be in conjunction with the School of Hospitality and Tourism, as well as other non-Algonquin parties.

The “bee guys” are also currently looking at different hive designs. The hives used now are designed primarily for honey production. To access it, someone has to go in and pull out the heavy frames full of honey.

A new hive design that would focus more on biodiversity than the production of honey may be added, said Fairbanks. A different design could potentially help with accessibility issues as well.

“We have seen results with things like cherry trees, that hadn’t actually had cherries for years,” said Sean Edwards. “Once the bees moved in, cherries started showing back up.”

All information regarding the beehives will be easily accessible for anyone that wants to stay informed. There will be a mobile app available for Apple and Android users to review everything.

“The more people who get involved, the better,” said Edwards.

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