Oct. 18, 2017
Seneca Sting Honey debuts to benefit students
Apiary at King Campus produces first crop
There’s a sweet spot behind the new Magna Hall underway at King Campus, beside a field of soybeans and wildflowers.
Thanks to Don Forster, a registered beekeeper and Seneca’s Senior Manager, Custodial and Support Services, a total of about 600,000 honey bees have kept 10 hives buzzing at King since May. Some of the bees were bred by Don in his own backyard.
The apiary harvested 900 pounds of honey this year, producing the first 1,500 bottles of Seneca Sting Honey, currently sold in the cafeteria at Seneca’s major campuses.
An additional 800 pounds of honey from another 15 hives that Don set up this year at Peterborough Campus will soon be bottled for sale, too. A portion of the proceeds will go to support student bursaries at Seneca.
A portion of the proceeds will go to support student bursaries at Seneca.
“Bees are just amazing,” Don says. “I’m always fascinated by how they work together and the structure of the hives. The amount of work they do to produce honey in a few months is just incredible.”
While Don has always been around bees—he grew up on a farm in Quebec—he became a commercial beekeeper (anyone with more than 50 hives) three years ago to help address the decline in the bee population.
“They have been dying off and becoming endangered,” he explains.
Today, Don tends to about 100 hives, including those on his property, at Seneca, Loyalist College and the University of Toronto Mississauga Campus. He checks on the bees every 10 days to make sure the queen is healthy and that there are no diseases. He estimates he has been stung about 1,000 times this year alone.
“After 100 stings, they don’t bother me anymore,” he says.
While the average lifespan of a working bee lasts four to six weeks, the majority of bees die over winter despite wrapping of the hives. New bees are often replaced in the spring.
“It’s typical for all beekeepers to deal with dead bees each year,” Don says. “Depending on this year’s winter, I expect the number of bees at King will reduce in half.”
Plans are in the works for Don to start new hives at Newnham Campus, and eventually, Don would like to have hives on the grounds of every college and university in southern Ontario.
“Bees are an important part of our ecosystem,” says Don, who is a member of Seneca’s Environmental Sustainability Committee. “Without them, there’d be nothing to pollinate our trees, plants and flowers.”