Residents in Chestermere are doing their part to help make the community a safe haven for bees, earning the title of Bee City – only the second community in Canada to receive the designation.
“Through our vision and strategic plan, we recognize the environment and the ecology that exists within not only our community, but in our greater region,” said Chestermere Mayor Patricia Matthews. “We hope this will spur great programs that the community will follow through on, and other great dreams that the committee is working on that will help bees to thrive.”
In March 2016, Dr. Preston Pouteaux, a local beekeeper and advocate initially approached City officials about the possibility of Chestermere becoming an official Bee City. The committee’s application was officially approved July 27.
“This is a movement that is happening throughout North America, but we are Western Canada’s first Bee City,” Pouteaux said. “The initiative itself is to turn the attention of the City, residents and neighbours to care for pollinator habitats in our midst.”
To inform the community about the importance of bees, Pouteaux said the Chestermere Bee Society has been working with local schools to educate children and help them understand bees aren’t scary – they are a valuable part of what makes a city great.
“We grew up with cartoons showing swarms of bees chasing people down the street, and that’s just not true,” he said. “Bees can sting, but they typically don’t. They just fly from flower to flower. We want to help people learn to care for them.”
The Chestermere Ag Society is also on board. According to Jen Peddlesden, red ribbon co-ordinator with the society, there will soon be an option for kids to participate in a honeybee 4-H program.
“We really appreciate our beekeepers and we are looking to have young people work with the judges at our Red Ribbon honey competition (at the Chestermere Country Fair) for a bit of mentorship,” Peddlesden said. “We want to encourage beekeeping and the idea of preserving our pollinators.”
The Chestermere Country Fair’s Red Ribbon honey competition has increased in popularity in the past few years, and Peddlesden attributes some of that increase to the participation of the Calgary and District Beekeeping Association’s contribution as judges for the event.
“We had three times as many entries last year as in previous years,” she said. “While 12 entries may not seem like a lot, it tops any other honey competition in southern Alberta, and preparing a jar of honey for a contest takes quite a bit of work.”
According to Matthews, while Chestermere has been recognized as Western Canada’s first Bee City, the title offers a benefit to the greater community and the greater region. She said anyone who would like more information about the Chestermere Bee Society can visit the group’s Facebook page and get in touch with Pouteaux.
“This was a community initiative that came to council and we were incredibly happy to support it,” she said. “Community knows no boundary, and the same thing exists when it comes to beekeeping.”