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Backyard beehives abuzz at Newnham

Urban beekeeping to support biodiversity


Peggy Pitawanakwat, Co-ordinator, First Peoples@Seneca, conducts a traditional blessing ceremony for the newly installed beehives at Newham Campus.

A hive of activity is happening at Newnham Campus after about 40,000 honey bees moved in last week.

The bees, housed in four boxed hives on the grassy slope between Parking Lot 3 and the new Indigenous Centre currently under construction, are kept by Don Forster, a registered beekeeper and Seneca’s Senior Manager, Environmental Sustainability.

Forster tends to about 100 hives, including about 35 between King and Peterborough campuses that have produced the Seneca Sting Honey, which is sold exclusively in the cafeteria at Seneca’s major campuses.

A portion of the honey proceeds go to support Seneca's Campaign for Students.

“The benefits of having honey bees on our campuses is to bring awareness to the importance of supporting native pollinators — butterflies, bees, birds and other wildlife,” he said

don forster

Don Forster accepts sage at the blessing ceremony from James Crittenden, an Indigenous student ambassador at Seneca.

“I’m passionate about increasing habitat for pollinators and promoting a greater biological diversity to help foster positive change in nature.”

In a traditional sage smudging ceremony conducted by Peggy Pitawanakwat, Co-ordinator, First Peoples@Seneca, the newly installed beehives were blessed on Wednesday, May 23.

The original Indigenous artwork on the outside of the hives features a circle of four honey bees designed by Pitawanakwat and painted by students at First Peoples@Seneca.

“The honey bee circle reflects Indigenous symbology of elements, cycles and teachings,” Pitawanakwat said.

According to Pitawanakwat, the four honey bees represent the four directions and four colours of the medicine wheel, which is considered a major symbol of peaceful interaction on Earth between all races of people, the directions, all the cycles of nature, day and night, seasons, moons, life cycles, the universe and more.

bee circle

Designed by Peggy Pitawanakwat, the honey bee circle is painted on each of the four beehives at Newnham.

Also represented in the circle are the Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers: wisdom, love, respect, bravery, kindness, humility and truth.

“We recognize the essential contribution that pollinators make to health and well-being of Mother Earth,” Pitawanakwat said.

According to the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association, many Ontario beekeepers experienced dramatic and unsustainable hive losses this past winter. In comparison, Forster’s hive losses at Seneca was modest and the queens and their colonies are now back in full strength. Forster estimates that the four hives at Newnham could grow as many as 50,000 bees per hive by the end of summer.

You can find Forster and his honey at Seneca’s Farmers Market on Fridays between June 1 and Aug. 31 from noon to 5 p.m. in Parking Lot 1 at Newnham. He will be featured in a bee talk during the market’s opening ceremony on June 8.


Seneca employees as well as children and staff from the Newnham Campus ECE Lab School attend the beehives blessing ceremony.