BONNYVILLE – There was a lot more buzz in the Town of Bonnyville thanks to a local resident who brought her passion for urban bee keeping to the area.
Donna Busque is currently the only Bonnyvillian to receive approval from the Town to install one beehive on her property. She also had two located within the MD of Bonnyville that she keeps an eye on.
“My primary interest in bees is how they function as an organism,” Busque explained. “The reason I wanted bees in my yard was so that I could observe them on a regular basis.”
Although Busque has been beekeeping for four years, she lost her hives last year due to the winter being very hard on honeybees.
Urban bee keeping is provincially regulated through the Alberta Bee Act and Regulations. Beekeepers must register with the Government of Alberta by the end of June each year.
The keeping of bees within the Town of Bonnyville is controlled and enforced under the Animal Control Bylaw No. 1459-17. Under this bylaw, the keeping of bees is prohibited, however, special permissions can be given to residents to keep bees on their properties and they must follow requirements from Town Council, the CAO or their delegate. Having a swarm plan and disease plan in place, along with a site plan, and setback requirements from public spaces such as playgrounds, sports fields, schools, and churches are among the requirements from the Town for beekeepers.
Busque’s development permit to have one beehive located on her property in Town was approved at a Regular Council Meeting on May 14, 2019. The conditions included any products produced from the keeping of the hive to be for personal use only, Busque must abide by any other provincial approval and regulations for this activity, provide a copy of the final provincial certificate of registration to the Town, among others.
Adjacent landowners were also contacted by Busque before she submitted her application. There was only one neighbour who wouldn’t sign an acknowledgement of Busque’s discussion with them about the project. The Town didn’t receive any complaints or concerns from property owners.
Although Busque said it wasn’t difficult to have a hive on her property, she did note there are “many factors that affect the hive that are not within her control that she must be responsive to.”
One example Busque used was being required to submit swarm and disease control plans.
“Bees reproduce by swarming. The sight of thousands of bees milling around is frightening to some people, but these bees are simply waiting to settle in a ball around the queen before the scout bees find a new home,” she detailed, adding the first time her bees swarmed, she was able to transport them to her in-laws property in the MD of Bonnyville where she had prepared a site for them.
“The second time they swarmed, we were on our way to Edmonton. We had to delay our departure by several hours to make sure the swarm didn’t nest in someone’s property. It’s recommended to inspect the hive for signs of overcrowding and swarm cells but doing this doesn’t always prevent swarming. It’s a strong instinct to be aware of. A swarming hive can easily turn a good neighbourhood into a bad one, if not managed out of respect for all concerned, including the bees.”
Busque stressed the importance of taking all possible steps to prevent swarms from becoming an issue for the community.
“If a bee nest establishes itself on someone’s property, insurance doesn’t cover costs incurred to remove or destroy it. All the demolition, rebuilding costs, and bee removal are responsibilities of the homeowner. Honeybees will travel up to a six-mile radius in search of habitat. In dense urban environments, honeybees have no choice but to eye personal property as nesting sites. It’s life or death for them.”
For anyone interested in becoming a beekeeper, Busque said “it’s very important” to be realistic about everything that’s involved when it comes to keeping bees.
“A hive is considered a single organism and is tracked and registered as livestock in agriculture. Some municipalities are treating honeybees like pets, however, unlike cats and dogs, a colony of honeybees cannot be managed so simply,” she explained.
For more information on the Alberta Bee Act and Regulations, click here.