Photo courtesy of Yens Pedersen.
Participants of an introduction to beekeeping course huddled around a hive fully decked out in white suits, gloves and veils, watching a honey comb extraction. Their instructor, dressed in khaki shorts and a button down shirt, instructed the course with honey comb in hand.
“It is possible for us to coexist with the bees and for nobody to be scared or panicky and getting stung,” said Yens Pedersen, the instructor without the bee suit.
The City of Regina permits backyard beekeeping for anyone registered under the Saskatchewan Beekeepers Development Commission.
Pedersen helps teach courses with the Regina & District Bee Club who want to get into recreational beekeeping, a hobby that has become quite popular in Regina. Pedersen estimated there are approximately 100 recreational beekeepers in the city.
“I really enjoyed doing it,” said Pedersen. “I enjoy showing people about it. And it’s kind of a way for me to, you know, to actually stay connected with that farming background of my family.”
Pedersen is no stranger to honeybees as he grew up on his family’s commercial bee farm near Cutknife. His summer job was slinging honey in the summer throughout his high school and post-secondary schooling. After moving to an urban area he took a 12-year hiatus from beekeeping until a neighbour asked for advice about his hives.
Pedersen has been a mentor for urban beekeepers in Regina. One of the biggest issues urban beekeepers face is swarming.
“Basically what a swarm is, is when the bees essentially divide their colony in half and create two colonies where there used to be one,” said Pedersen. “The problem was swarming is you don’t know where they’re gonna go.”
Swarming is often the result of not giving hives enough space. When colonies divide they will often find the nearest sheltered place.
“In Regina, my cell number is basically the swarm hotline,” said Pedersen with a laugh. “I act as the dispatcher.”
Many are often eager to re-hive swarms for themselves as hives cost around $300.
Commercial and hobbyist beekeepers are responsible for keeping their bees safe. Amendments made in 2020 to The Apiaries Act 2019 considers bees livestock for commercial and hobbyist beekeepers. With the recent outbreak of Varroa mites killing honeybees throughout Canada, beekeepers are feeling the sting.
While colony losses are predicted to be small in Saskatchewan, Pedersen thinks losses are just as likely to be as big as other provinces are looking at statistics of up to 50 per cent.
“Honeybees are an agricultural animal.” said Pedersen. “It is up to beekeepers to do a proper management of their hives. We have a term in livestock farming, that’s called Integrated Pest Management.”
Pest Control Canada defines Integrated Pest Management as a way to keep pests suppressed so they do not harm livestock, but not low enough to below the economic injury level.
Pedersen critiques harmful information spread about beekeeping. A member expresses his thanks for Pedersen’s insight on the Regina District & Bee Club page:
“Thanks Yens, great observations!” said F. Barry Brown. “There is so much wrong with that picture and little understanding of bees, beekeeping, pollination and nature.”
Pedersen is currently a lawyer in Regina and previously had a seat with the Saskatchewan NDP as a MLA.
Click below to take a look on how commercial bee farms operate in Saskatchewan.