To be or not to be that is the question. And the answer for student Eliese Watson is definitely be … well bee.
The Mount Royal history student recently won a $5,000 grant from The Co-operators for her program to encourage urban beekeeping.
“Urban beekeeping is a good fit with the development of and the angle that the city of Calgary is moving — which is a more sustainable future,” says Watson.
Watson wants to educate people on this legal activity through her organization A.B.C. Apiaries and Bees for Communities. She offers workshops on beekeeping in a city and how to get a Top-Bar urban hive which can help pollinate the neighborhood and will create honey that can be harvested for food or health products.
“Beekeeping and urban food production is about building community,” says Watson, who is also the Vice-president of Sustainable MRU. “If we lose our pollinators we will live in a lifeless city.”
The personable Watson says her fascination with bugs started as a child and that she has always loved bees.
“Bees have always been so beautiful. They are messengers of love for flowers. They don’t come out in the rain or wind, only on sunny days so they seem angelic. And it really makes you realize the connection between nature and animals.”
Watson is well aware not all people share her passion for the little yellow and black buzzers, but says it is because they are misunderstood.
“Most people who run from them don’t know the difference between honey bees and wasps. Wasps aren’t fuzzy. If it’s fuzzy it’s friendly!”
Creating a buzz
A.B.C. really took off after Watson met a fellow bee lover. Thanks to a scholarship, Watson was able to attend a conference in Guelph where she met Director and Co-Founder of Honey Care Africa, Farouk Jiwa. Jiwa brought people together with complementary skills in Africa to raise bees which helped protect gardens from elephants. Jiwa’s experience bringing people together for a natural solution helped give Watson the confidence she needed to move forward.
Thinking about urban beekeeping here are some basics:
She realized she didn’t have to know everything about bees to help people, but instead she could use her strong organizational skills and enthusiasm to create a community — to bring people together to help each other.
“Having community support makes a world of difference,” says Watson. “Don’t give up persistence is key.”
Hive of activity
Watson also credits her Mount Royal experience — especially extracurricular — for building confidence and exposing skills she didn’t know she had.
“My experience on campus has been astronomical in supporting me to do this,” she says.
Helping to coordinate a zero waste event taught her a lot about bringing people together, planning events, networking and communication.
“It solidified that those are skills I have and it’s developing and it is something I really, really enjoy doing.”
Those talents transfer well to A.B.C. where Watson organizes special workshops and educational speaker events such as the sold out March 26 An Evening on Urban Beekeeping at the Calgary Zoo and Level One Beekeeping Course April 24-25.
— Anika Van Wyk, March 24, 2010