In early June of 2020, Sunnybrook was quite literally buzzing with activity as the newest residents arrived at the outer reaches of the Bayview campus: Thirty thousand honey bees in three hives were now calling Sunnybrook home.
The hives are located about one kilometre away from the main hospital buildings, on the edge of the picturesque lawns at MacLean House. Sunnybrook has partnered with Fairhaven Farm to care for the hives and provide honey to be sold to our staff, patients, and visitors each year.
Why did Sunnybrook decide to install beehives at the Bayview campus?
The global bee population is unfortunately declining, and as a result urban beekeeping is on the rise. In many ways, cities can be an ideal location for beekeeping due to abundant flowering plants, fewer pesticides than rural areas, many sources of water… and hopefully few bears!
In fact, Toronto became Canada’s first official “Bee City” in 2016. Sunnybrook wanted to support the bee population and also provide opportunities for staff and visitors to learn more about bees. Our large campus and plenty of green space, including flower and vegetable gardens, is an added bonus.
Why are bees at risk and why are they important to the planet?
There are many factors behind the loss of bees. Climate change, pesticide use, loss of habitat, pollution, and parasites and predators are just some of the reasons.
Bees are not only extremely important for humans, but also for entire ecosystems to function. Bees pollinate plants, allowing them to reproduce. These plants then contribute to the food system by feeding animals – aside from humans – such as birds and insects.
Should people with bee sting allergies be nervous?
Honey bees don’t usually sting people unless they are provoked by individuals who interfere with the hive. The risk of a sting is no higher having honey bees on site, and the usual precautions should be taken by allergic individuals, like carrying an EpiPen and seeking immediate medical attention if stung.
Bees are focused on the flowers. Wasps, on the other hand, are usually the ones that get close and personal, spoiling our picnics and barbecues.