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Honeybee project ready to take flight

Bees from a hive on top of the Social Sciences Building are busy at their work.

There is a buzz around campus for a new honeybee project getting ready to take flight.

The plan is to expand the UTSC honeybee project to include three hives in addition to hives that are currently operating  atop the Social Sciences Building,

The small, industrious honeybee is an essential part of the ecosystem, explains beekeeper Brian Hamlin, who is in charge of the UTSC hives. Honeybees pollinate crops and flowers, and have taken on greater importance lately given the population decline of other pollinators like butterflies and wild bees.

“Even though they are a little insect they do a lot of good, and it’s remarkable to think how important they are to our survival,” says Hamlin.

In addition to helping increase the honeybee population, which has also been on the decline, the project will aim to engage local students and community members to learn more about honeybees and their important role as pollinators.

The UTSC bees also help to make a tasty treat, which is being sold at local farmers’ markets to help support the project.

While the thought of a bee colony on campus may be a worry to some, honeybees are quite docile compared to their more aggressive wasp cousins, says Rebecca Dehmassi, a U of T biology student who is helping get the new UTSC project off the ground.

“People often confuse bees and wasps. Honeybees are generally not aggressive and are usually busy working,” she says. “It’s highly unlikely you will get stung except in extreme situations when they sense a threat to their hive and go on the defensive.”

The fact that the current hives are located on the roof of a five-story building means people have little to fear, she adds.

Dehmassi’s father and grandfather were beekeepers in Iran before coming to Canada, and she says she is proud to continue the family tradition. Dehmassi says that she hopes many members of the UTSC community will become involved in the project and see what all the buzz is about. No experience is required and anyone can volunteer.

“It’s a really enjoyable experience,” she says.

Hamlin agrees, adding anyone with an interest in sustainability, local food production, or biology and the environment in general can enjoy beekeeping.

Those looking for more information or to volunteer on the UTSC honeybee project can contact Billi Jo Cox at bcox@utsc.utoronto.ca 




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