Honeybees at the COC


The Canadian Opera Company is delighted to be part of the ever-growing support of honeybees, Currently we host seven hives onthe roof of our opera house, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Follow the honeybees' progress on Parlando, with visits and posts from beekeeper Fred Davis!

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Fred in the Grid!

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Spring Buzz on the COC's Honeybees

Last year the Canadian Opera Company was delighted to welcome two hives of honeybees on the roof of our opera house, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. On May 7, beekeeper Fred Davis brought in new hives, to replace the bees that didn't survive the winter, upping our hive numbers to seven!

Fred tells us more, below:

On Saturday May 7 we introduced a number of new hives to the rooftop of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. I usually give hives about a week to get acclimatized to their new surroundings but had to extend that a while due to the poor weather. This week I starting champing at the bit to see how they had adjusted to their journey and if they had settled in ok.

The poor bees must feel like they are living in Vancouver! I love Vancouver but the cold temperatures here followed by the incessant rain these past few weeks have really put a damper on hive activity. I hate to open hives when the weather is crummy because you encounter bees with cabin fever. Yikes! So we had to wait until this afternoon for our first real hive check. This is when we determine how much food they had on hand (i.e. their honey stores), the queen's egg laying patterns, if the queen is busy laying eggs, and if they are showing signs of swarming. Remember, it's very natural for honeybees to swarm. They prepare for it every year around May and June and that's the time beekeepers must be on their toes in order to prevent such an occurrence. You might ask why we would want to prevent a swarm? Well, if you are in this game to produce honey you don't want to lose half your production facility (i.e. half your bees) just when nectar gathering and honey production is about to ramp up. So, as with all animal husbandry, there are a few things a beekeeper must do to trick Mother Nature a little bit. We don't harm the bees in any way, we just try to make them think they have already swarmed. This is not always successful and there is a bit of science behind it so I will write about it in another blog entry.

Today, May 19, Lorna, my very capable assistant, and I looked through our seven hives in search for the queens, laying patterns, food stocks (honey they will use), and swarm cells.  A swarm cell is one in which a new queen is gestating. If we find one or more it indicates they are preparing to create a new queen and will swarm in the near future. We were pleasantly surprised to find the bees very active and healthy and only two swarm cells which we removed from the hive. We'll keep our eyes on those hives. We added a new brood chamber so each queen has more room to lay eggs. We reversed the hive boxes as well. This a simple, precautionary measure that sometimes convinces the bees that they have already swarmed. We'll see about that.

I placed a shallow pan with lots of water and rocks upon which they can sit safely while they sip away. I also added a bag of sugar water solution to each hive in case they need a little extra boost of food. I will check in on them again this weekend to see how they are doing.

Thanks Fred! And now, here are some pictures...

The new hives arrive at the opera house. Each hive contains approximately 10,000 bees! The smell in the truck was lovely: warm and honeyish.

The honeybees await placement in their new home. Notice Fred's beekeeper's hat on top of the pile! This year, Fred has moved the hives further east along the roof of the opera house. If you're attending a performance, visit Ring 4, and you can see the hives just outside the (locked) glass door overlooking the roof.

Fred adjusts his hat.

Fred preps the hives. The top of each hive is very warm, as the honeybees create and control the temperature inside each hive.

Honeybee activity!

Honeybees from the new hives come out to check out their surroundings. Fred told me that in the first day or so they would make orientation flights to learn their new neighbourhood.

Honeybee closeup!

Fred with his great helpers: Barb, his wife, and Sam, his son.


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Anticipating Spring

With spring surely not too far away, it's time to check in with our honeybees! Beekeeper Fred Davis is waiting for a nice, warm day to open the hives and see how our bees are doing. He’d like to add four more hives this season but will wait till a later time in late spring/early summer to make sure he gets well-established hives. The cold winds of late spring can be a bit fierce for a new hive.

In the meantime, it's good to know that our honeybees are helping diversify the types of species of pollinators and plants in the vicinity of the opera house. It’s another way to be a - literally - vital part of our community.

Come back and visit soon to get all the buzz on the bees!

Posted by Gianna Wichelow / in Bee Update / comments (3) / permalink

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