Bees at the Hill

Hillcrest Mall is the first Canadian shopping centre to install a rooftop beekeeping area to preserve the species.

There are about 50,000 honeybees occupying a portion of the rooftop of Richmond Hill’s Hillcrest Mall. That number is expected to climb to roughly 80,000 by summer’s end. Don’t be alarmed — these bees are there on purpose.

They’re a part of Hillcrest’s new rooftop beekeeping area, which launched back in June in an effort to maintain and preserve the precarious bee species while promoting local bee farming. “It’s a mixture of both [creating awareness and producing honey],” says Lisa Resnic, Hillcrest’s marketing director. “Definitely the awareness, the getting people to jump on board and do this, and that we felt passionate about helping bees was the number one [thing]. And then, obviously, as by-product, we get honey.”

Resnic mentions that the most “immediate” value she and the team at Hillcrest identified was the importance of biodiversity and of ensuring the health of the bee species. Resnic and her team visit the rooftop area on a regular basis to check that the bees have fresh water, the wildflowers are blooming and the bees’ pollination path is clear. Additionally, Toronto-based beekeeping company Alvéole comes every two weeks to conduct maintenance on the bees in the seven hives. “It’s the health of the bees that we really need to concentrate on.”

Based on a 2015 Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry (in Canada), it’s clear that the bee species is important, both environmentally and economically. The findings show that roughly “one-third of the human diet comes directly or indirectly from insect-pollinated plants,” which rely on insects like bees. The species also has a significant economic impact, as “bumblebees used in greenhouses are a $3.7 million per year industry.” And the continent could be at risk of losing a large portion of the bee species, as referenced by a Center for Biological Diversity report this February, which found that “more than 700 North American bee species are headed toward extinction.”

“I think that’s very sad,” Resnic says of the findings. “Anytime that I hear about a species under threat, I think it’s terribly sad.” But she says there is room for optimism, as seen with the launch of Hillcrest’s initiative. “I am encouraged that people are so willing to jump in and help.” Resnic says that she had an elderly retired gentleman call her recently. “He wanted to know if he can have beehives in his backyard. He read the articles and wants to help. If we can lead the way, and if this invites another half-dozen people to put beehives in their backyards, then that takes it to the next step, and I like that.”

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Daniel Calabretta

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