Bee Farm Pilot Project

Queen’s Hospitality Services and the Facilities Office partnered with a Registered Commercial Beekeeper, Don Forster, to bring an Apiary (Bee Farm) to west campus!  This apiary is a two-year pilot project located at 300 Sir John A. Macdonald Blvd. 

Bee pollinators in urban areas help ensure the health and survival of plants, flowers, and trees. This living lab supports experiential learning and local food production while improving the campus ecosystem and increasing awareness of environmental sustainability within the community.

The apiary bee is non-aggressive and bred for calmness, with a low tendency to swarm. The farm is not open to the public and access is managed and led by the professional beekeeper. While the risk of anyone being stung by an apiary bee is low, anyone who experiences an allergic reaction should call 911 or the Queen’s Emergency Report Centre at 613-533-6111. There is also a blue light emergency phone near Richardson Stadium.


Shop for Queen's Bee's Honey at these campus locations(September 2023, while quantities last):

  • Goodes Café 
  • Student Street Café 
  • Mac Corry 
  • Location 21 
  • The Lazy Scholar
  • Campus Market

Bee Farming FAQ’s with Don Forster

Bee farming is rewarding and frustrating, but it’s a way for me to connect with nature and a form of mental health therapy. When inside a hive, I feel calm and focused, and it’s gratifying to manage sustainable bee colonies that produce honey crops that are a natural healthy food source and support other local farmers by providing a valuable pollination service to their farms. The frustrating part of bee farming is trying to manage all the negative environmental impacts that can affect the health of a colony. 

Factors that can affect honeybee colonies include the loss of plant and bee diversity, a reduction in bee habitat and forage, the introduction of toxins into the environment and the increasing number of pests that can bring diseases into a colony. Varroa mite (Varroa destructor) is the most severe pest of honeybee colonies worldwide.

Honeybees on our campuses bring awareness to the importance of supporting native pollinators —butterflies, bees, birds and other wildlife.  

Farming bees encourages an increase in habitat for pollinators and promotes a more significant biological diversity to help foster positive change in nature.

Although honeybees are not native to North America, they are integrated into the landscape and play a critical role in agriculture. Many flowering plants rely on bees for pollination; without pollinators, we wouldn’t be able to produce the volume of food we do. Honeybees also produce food for us directly by making honey we use for eating, drinking, and cooking. Beeswax produced by honeybees is used in candles, health and beauty products and other home goods.

  • Honey supers (the boxes to collect honey) fill, and bees cap the cells. A bee escape (a one-way exit that allows bees to return to the brood box and prevents the bees from getting back into the honey boxes) is placed onto the top brood chamber and put honey supers on top of the bee escape. Bee escapes are left in place for one or two days to allow all the bees to leave the honey supers. 
  • On day two, honey supers are removed from the colony and returned to my honey house to detach the frames with honey and scrape off the wax cappings that bees place over the honey once they have reduced the water content to 18% or less. When bees collect nectar from flowers, it has a water content of approximately 70%. Bees add enzymes to nectar which helps convert the sugar in nectar to make honey.  
  • After wax cappings get removed, up to 20 frames go into a honey extractor, a large stainless-steel tank that spins to draw out the honey. Honey then gets strained to catch any missed wax cappings before entering a bottling tank. 
  • No additional processing is required; honey is clean and pure from the hive. 
  • Excess honey is pulled from hives in mid-August, allowing bees to gather nectar late into fall to backfill empty frames inside the hive with food for the winter.  

  • A colony of honeybees in early spring can have approximately 10,000-15,000 bees and 50-80,000 bees in the summer.  
  • It requires 556 worker bees to gather a pound of honey because a worker bee gathers in her entire life (six weeks) 0.8 grams of honey. 
  • Depending on the food (plants, trees, clovers, strength of each hive) available for the bees to collect nectar and pollen, the time to produce honey varies from beeyard to beeyard.  
  • A colony will fill honey supers in a week in an ideal foraging year, and it can take four to five months to fill five honey supers if it is a cold rainy season, and bees don’t fly and cannot collect nectar and pollen. 

Honey’s colour and flavour depend on the food source available to the bees. Some honey will be lighter in colour or sweeter than honey collected from a different region. 

  • When the weather gets cold, honeybees will stop flying and return to the hive huddling in the lower central area, forming a winter cluster.  
  • Worker bees huddle around the queen. The cluster will shiver to keep the centre around 80 degrees. Workers rotate from the outside to the inside of the cluster, ensuring no bees get cold. The colder the weather, the more compact the cluster. 
  • A colony of hibernating bees will consume up to 90-100 pounds of stored honey during the winter. Eating honey helps the bees with the energy they need to produce body heat to keep the hive cluster warm. The worker bees vibrate their wing muscles to produce heat. 
  • Bees will leave the hive for short periods when the weather gets warmer. The primary purpose is to eliminate body waste. The bees don’t go very far, and the flights don’t last very long. If their bodies get too cold, they will not be able to get back to the hive. 

  • Everyone can contribute to the bee population by planting flowers or trees. Bees will find the nectar-producing plants, which benefits pollinators and all of us.  
  • Many plants would have no way to reproduce and die out if bees did not pollinate them, so their role is essential to the life cycle of most plants and flowers. 
  • It is estimated that bees pollinate 1/3rd of the food we consume. If they were not pollinating the plants, we would not have the food they produce. 

Honey contains antioxidants and antibacterial compounds, providing natural healing properties.

Oct 2, 2020 10:15 am