Wooden boxes are necessary to raise bees in the city. (Photo credit: Anya Chibis)

Topics: Ethical Living | Environment

The bee-ginner’s guide to urban beekeeping

We asked a Hamilton, Ont., apiarist about the tools needed to raise pollinators in the city


Honeybees are extremely important for the ecosystem — about 30 percent of our food relies on their pollination. But they are at risk because of loss of habitat, climate change and pesticides.

To help save bee populations, Luc Peters and Dan Douma run Humble Bee, a business that manages and breeds bees across Hamilton, Ont.. “Bees have not recovered from the major losses that were in the news quite a few years ago,” says Peters of their work.

Below, Peters shares some of the tools of the beekeeping trade.

No. 1: Wooden boxes and frames
Since Humble Bee started in 2013, Peters and Douma have set up over 200 hives with roughly 60,000 bees each — one queen plus workers and drones. The frames help harvest surplus honey.

No. 2: Smoker
Before going into the hive, the two urban beekeepers sometimes use a smoker, which can mask aggressive bee pheromones, to avoid stressing the colony. However, it isn’t always needed because their bees are so gentle.

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No. 3: Space
It’s better to manage colonies in the city as opposed to the countryside. This is because industrial farming uses pesticides that can be damaging to bees. Humble Bee’s hives are in more than 30 locations across Hamilton. (Canada has about 7,000 beekeepers — 20 percent are hobbyists.)

No. 4: Hive tool
Also known as a scraper, it’s primarily used to easily move the boxes and wooden frames. “I use this every time I open a hive. It’s like an extension of my hand,” says Peters.

No. 5: Bees
Peters and Douma got their first insects from a local beekeeper a decade ago. Today, they proudly raise their own Ontario honeybees.


Albina Retyunskikh is a writer based in Montréal.

This story first appeared in Broadview’s November 2020 issue with the title “Humble Bee.”

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