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‘A space to live’: What you should know about the honey bee colonies at Mohawk College

Mohawk’s Fennell campus is home to many pollinators, including four honey bee colonies.

Ashley Packer, the sustainability programs and services coordinator at Mohawk Sustainability, said the college partnered with a local beekeeper to bring the pollinators to campus.

“We wanted to do something to support honey bees and give them a space to live, while also being able to harvest their honey and share that with our community on campus,” Packer said.

The honey extracted by the bees is used for a variety of purposes.

Mohawk Sustainability hosts honey harvesting events where students can watch the extraction process and meet the beekeeper who maintains the colonies. The honey is also sold at the college’s Local Food Farm Stand and is sometimes used as prizes at campus events.

The honey bee colonies are paid for by a $5 fee that students pay with their tuition. The fee goes toward a variety of sustainability initiatives on campus.

“Mohawk kind of looks for different ways to support sustainable food systems,” Packer said. “Honey bees specifically are a huge part of the food system, whether we know it or not. Honey bees are actually responsible for like, one out of every three bites of food that we eat.”

The campus colonies are maintained by Dave Stotesbury, co-owner and head beekeeper at Backed By Bees, an organization that keeps over 700 colonies in the Halton Region.

“The big thing that we’re trying to do with the bees specifically, is we’re starting to try to work with our corporate partners and educational institutions like Mohawk to promote and dispel myths about pollinators, pollination and bees,” Stotesbury said. “What we’re trying to do is show people how important these things are to their lives.”

Packer said that the location of the colonies is not something that is typically advertised due to safety concerns for both students and the bees, but students who want to get involved can email her directly at ashley.packer@mohawkcollege.ca for more information.

In addition to housing honey bees, Mohawk Sustainability has worked to create a pollinator-friendly environment throughout campus.

“On the second floor of the library, there’s a patio you can go to,” Packer said. “The patio is wrapped around by this four-foot-deep pollinator garden, so [there’s] some pollinator plants and some grasses, but all of it is native, intended to give habitat and food sources to our native pollinators.”

The rooftop pollinator garden also has a native bee hotel, which is used by bees in the area as a place to rest.

“It’s a pretty small little nest that Backed By Bees makes,” Packer said. “It has these interchangeable wood pieces on it that are different drilled holes, different sizes, that are specifically the size for native pollinators to be able to have their nests in, and the size is small enough to keep predators out as well.”

The native bee hotel gives bees a place to rest.

Because of Mohawk Sustainability’s effort to create an environment suitable for pollinators, Mohawk College was designated as a Bee City Campus.

“There’s this company called Bee City Canada, and they are kind of just a regulatory body where they reach out to different cities and campuses across Canada and essentially ask you to make a commitment to planting native [plants] and native trees, and just giving space for native pollinators to live,” Packer said. “Once you go through their process, you’re then a certified Bee City Campus.

To learn more about Mohawk Sustainability and their initiatives, visit mohawkcollege.ca/sustainability.

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