Our Code for Urban Apiculture

Urban beekeeping: because a hobby must not become a threat to biodiversity.

As an educational tool, a means of promoting urban biodiversity and a vector of collective mobilization for a healthy environment, urban beekeeping represents an incredible opportunity to bring the urban population closer to their environment.

Since its creation in 2012, Coop Miel Montréal has been promoting a vision of exemplary and responsible urban beekeeping. This approach is clarified by the Urban Beekeeping Charter, which sets out the principles of urban beekeeping respectful of the urban and socially responsible ecological framework.

1. Education at the heart of the practice

Symbol of cooperation and ambassador of the world of the insects, the bee has been peaking the interest and curiosity of people for thousands of years. Today, it brings together young and old around current environmental and food issues. The presence of the bee in the heart of cities makes it possible to interest the population in the biology of social insects, in the importance of pollinators in ecosystems and in urban agriculture.

So, approach to beekeeping is:

  1. the main objective of urban beekeeping is to sensitize and educate the population on the importance of pollinators and all biodiversity;
  2. urban beekeeping is therefore not about "saving bees" from a worldwide decline by installing hives in the city or responding to the demand for honey.

Accessible and fair

In order to maximize the educational reach of urban beekeeping and to enable sustained citizen engagement, we consider that:

  1. the implementation of projects with a high potential for social accessibility, such as educational or demonstration apiaries, should be favoured over individual or private projects. These types of apiaries make it possible to reach a large part of the population while avoiding the needless multiplication of honey bee colonies (see Article 2);
  2. collective apiaries must also be favoured, since they allow a reasonable resource of time, money, energy and numbers.

2. Valorisation and conservation of biodiversity

Urban beekeeping has the quality of recalling the importance of biodiversity to citizens by facilitating contact with nature. The introduction of this new species into the urban ecosystem, however, remains an ecologically sensitive intervention, considering that:

  1. the honeybee (Apis mellifera) is an exotic species introduced to North America
  2. native pollinating insects are of crucial importance in urban and rural ecosystems as well as food systems, and are experiencing a decline as worrying as bees;
  3. cities, as diversified as they are in terms of plants, have certain limits (quantity, quality and receptivity of habitat) for the development of biodiversity;
  4. data and studies of a city's ability to accommodate an increasing number of honey bee colonies are limited and fragmented.

2.1 Ecological impacts

Consequently, the introduction of the honeybee in the city must take into account:

  1. the limited capacity of urban habitat to support an increasing number of honey bee colonies as well as native pollinating insect populations;
  2. potential competition for resources between colonies and between pollinator species;
  3. the risk of transmission of pathogens between honeybee colonies and between honeybees to native bee populations;
  4. the potential for modifying pre-existing plant-insect relationships and plant communities following the introduction of honeybee colonies.

2.2 Precautionary Principle

Given these potential impacts and the lack of evidence to corroborate or negate them, we advocate the adoption of the precautionary principle in relation to the introduction of urban honeybee colonies. This results in the following actions:

  1. a progressive, reasoned and responsible development of urban beekeeping and the number of honey bee colonies in Montreal;
  2. monitoring of impacts on support capacity and competition dynamics;
  3. deployment of measures aimed at improving the habitat through the creation of plant spaces rich in nectar and pollen, even before the introduction of new hives.

2.3 Inclusive valuation of biodiversity

Social insects, such as bees and wasps, suffer from a bad reputation because of the use of their sting as a defense. Wasps suffer particularly from this damage and are almost unanimously stigmatized. Yet wasps play an indispensable role in the balance of ecosystems as predators and pollinators.

Thus, we advocate an inclusive valuation of biodiversity, without resorting to denigration of the wasp or other insects, too often stigmatized to promote the acceptance of the bee within the population.

2.4 Urban agriculture: honey production and pollination

Urban beekeeping is part of a context of urban agriculture, as it is complementary to the gardening activities of urban dwellers and allows the production of a local product (urban honey). However, we consider that:

  1. although the production of urban honey represents an unparalleled opportunity for city dwellers to discover the aromas of the floral plants in their neighborhood, the limited scale of urban beekeeping does not meet the demand for honey from the local population, ie an entire metropolis;
  2. although the honeybee contributes to the pollination of certain species of fruits and vegetables, adequate fruiting of all urban crops depends on pollination by a maximum of wild and domestic pollinating insect species, hence the importance of protecting and enhancing the biodiversity of the entomofauna as a whole.

3. Responsible apiculture

Miel Montréal advocates a responsible practice of urban beekeeping and considers that:

  1. beekeeping is a complex practice that should not be taken lightly and requires an investment of time, energy and financial resources from the beekeeper;
  2. urban beekeeping must be practiced by people who are rigorously trained and sufficiently experienced (or accompanied by competent resource persons);
  3. an irresponsible practice of beekeeping can weaken a colony and / or induce it to spread; it will thus harm the well-being of nearby settlements and the establishment of a harmonious cohabitation with the population.

3.1 Health and well-being of colonies

Thus, to ensure the health and welfare of honeybee colonies, the responsible beekeeper must commit to:

  1. ensure strict sanitary management of colonies to limit the spread of pathogens and parasites;
  2. consider and respect the community's support capacity by ensuring the presence of suitable habitat for the colonies;
  3. ideally, improve its apicultural practice by creating habitats for bees and pollinators, particularly by planting nectariferous and pollinating plants on the territory adjacent to apiculture facilities.

3.2 Social responsibility of beekeepers

To promote its harmonious cohabitation with the population, the practice of urban beekeeping must be combined with an awareness-raising approach for this population. The urban apiculture community must also be attentive to the concerns and limitations of this population and concerned about public health issues. Thus, according to Miel Montréal, the urban beekeeper must at least:

  1. limit and manage swarming situations;
  2. set up safe, reliable and respectful facilities for the neighboring population;
  3. communicate with the surrounding population about their intentions, sensitize them and reassure them about the practice.

4. Political reach

We conceive of urban beekeeping as having a political dimension to be a catalyst for social and environmental change, including:

  1. by bringing the population together in a movement of citizen re-appropriation of urban and rural areas;
  2. creating bonds of solidarity and relaying the demands of beekeepers, farmers and rural agricultural workers who work and struggle for a new agricultural model;
  3. by demanding and contributing to planning and greening practices favorable to the deployment of biodiversity in the urban setting;
  4. by demanding agricultural and horticultural practices that are free from harmful pesticides for bees and all biodiversity;
  5. contributing to the development of analytical and critical skills in relation to the food system and its social and environmental impacts;
  6. stimulating conscientious action by urban populations in the conditions that shape the current food system and urban development (agricultural and environmental policies, structures and decision-making mechanisms, corporate lobbying, etc.)

4.1 Honest and Transparent Uses of Practice

Miel Montréal considers urban beekeeping primarily as an education and awareness tool rather than a "green marketing" or "green gentrification" tool.

Therefore, we encourage urban beekeepers as well as companies and institutions engaged in this activity to be transparent and to be vigilant in the face of the potential for shifting to purely cosmetic practices that reduce urban beekeeping to a simple communication or marketing tool.

A non-profit solidarity cooperative, Miel Montréal supports the right to safe and accessible food for all. Since 2012, Miel Montréal has been working to be a socially committed organization. By our environmental reasons, we prioritize food security and the re-appropriation of public green spaces. We hope, by working together with the City of Montreal, to promote the concept of the urban ecosystem and encourage citizen actions, both private and public, to do the same.

*** This text, resulting from a collaborative reflection, is licensed under Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 and can be shared or adapted. ***

I SIGN THE CODE


CHARTE DE L'APICULTURE URBAINE -- CODE FOR URBAN APICULTURE




  






***English follows***
Montréal, le lundi 1er mai 2017 - La Coopérative de solidarité Miel Montréal dévoile la charte de l’apiculture urbaine dans le but d’obtenir des appuis à sa démarche : favoriser l’encadrement de cette pratique tout en déboulonnant les mythes qui entourent cet insecte social.

L’augmentation rapide du nombre de ruches à Montréal est notoire, passant d’une quinzaine de ruches en 2011 à plus de 600 en 2016. S’il est vrai que les abeilles sont en danger, il faut rester humble, en rappelant que ce n’est pas l’apiculture urbaine qui les sauvera, mais des changements beaucoup plus vastes. Cette charte de l’apiculture urbaine vise donc à susciter une réflexion collective autour de cette activité en pleine effervescence.

L’abeille à miel représente un merveilleux moyen de valoriser la biodiversité urbaine ainsi qu’un vecteur de mobilisation collective pour un environnement sain. Cette charte souligne les opportunités que représente l’abeille sur le plan éducatif, son impact sur la biodiversité, les cadres d’une pratique responsable de l’apiculture, ou encore, en tant qu’activité à portée politique.

Or, il s’agit d’un appel à la vigilance de toutes et tous par rapport à la cohabitation entre les citadins et les abeilles dans un contexte urbain limité par ses capacités de support, habitat et nourriture.

La coopérative de solidarité Miel Montréal base ses actions en s’appuyant sur le principe de précaution de la loi du développement durable du Québec, c’est ce qui motive notre présente position. La rédaction de cette charte est l’œuvre de plusieurs personnes issues de nos membres et autres amoureux des abeilles sensibles aux réalités associées à la fragilité de l’écosystème urbain. Nous encourageons toute personne adhérant à cette charte à la signer puis à la partager et l’adapter en partie ou en totalité, car nous avons voulu ce texte collaboratif en licence libre.

***English version***

Montreal, May 1, 2017 - The non- profit cooperative Miel Montréal unveils the Code of urban apiculture in order to gain support for its approach, ie to encourage the supervision of this practice while undoing the myths surrounding this insect social.

The rapid increase in the number of hives in Montreal is notorious, going from about 15 hives in 2011 to more than 600 in 2016. If it is true that bees are in danger, we must remain humble, remembering that it is not urban beekeeping that will save them, but much larger changes. This code of urban beekeeping aims to encourage collective thinking around this activity in full swing.

The honey bee represents a wonderful way to promote urban biodiversity and a vector of collective mobilization for a healthy environment. This code highlights the opportunities presented by the bee, in terms of education, impact on biodiversity, guidelines for a responsible practice for beekeeping, or as a political activity.

However, it is a call to the vigilance of each and everyone in relation to the cohabitation between city dwellers and bees, in an urban context with limited capacities in terms of its support, habitat and food.

Miel Montreal bases its actions on the precautionary principle of the law of sustainable development of Quebec. It is what motivates our present position. The drafting of this code is the work of several people, from our members and other bee lovers, sensitive to the realities associated with the fragility of the urban ecosystem. We encourage anyone who agrees to this code to sign it and then share it, and even adapt it in part or in full as we designed it to be collaborative, in free license.

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Crédit Photo : Manoushka Larouche, Samuel Cogrenne, Alexandre Gillez.