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  • Beekeepers benefit from social media buzz

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    A social media campaign was instrumental for Tracey Weicht and Sherry Phillips to keep their bees on their acreages. The pair of beekeepers pose in front of Phillips’ hive.

    The hum on Facebook sounded a lot like a beehive. The effect was just as good as bees making that delicious honey.
    Last month, both local area acreage residents Tracy Weicht and Sherry Phillips were told by Rocky View County they needed to get rid of their beehives from their properties they have kept for a couple of years. 
    There was a complaint and in the Rocky View County bylaws, bees were considered livestock and since the properties were only two acres, they would have to go.
    Had either of the beehives been within Chestermere city limits, there would be no problem, as backyard bees are legal there.
    It felt like an injustice for the beekeepers, and their plight went to the public via social media.
    The outcry was intense, and soon Rocky View councillor Rolly Ashdown got involved to smooth the situation out. Much of that outcry came through the Langdon Good Luck Town group on Facebook, and Ashdown went into action, helping the women keep buzzing along as beekeepers.
    Ashdown took the issue to the board and they agree to make some changes.
    “Social media is a double-edged sword,” said Weicht. “It can be the bane of your existence. In this case, it was nice to have it spread quickly and have people become engaged. That’s the way you can get movement sometimes. 
    “In municipal government, it can sometimes be a slow-moving process. But if they know their constituency is passionate about something then you are more likely to get more movement sooner.”
    “Especially with bees. Everybody is on board with survival,” said Phillips, who has one hive to Weicht’s three. “The number of people on board with beekeeping as a whole is more than those who are negative about it. 
    “The negative part is just people who aren’t educated about how beekeeping works.”
    Part of the reason bees get a bad rap is that many people — children especially — get scared when they see a bee buzzing around. Often they can be confused with wasps, which are much more of a threat to sting or bite.
    There are many debates about whether there is a bee shortage crisis in the world, but there is no one arguing that they are beneficial to human life. In the few years that Weicht and Phillips have kept bees on their properties, they’ve seen a significant improvement around their yards.
    So a couple of complaints wouldn’t stop the homeowners from being able to make their neighbourhood a more beautiful place.
    “Fortunately for us they picked bees and that’s a hot-button topic right now,” Weicht said about the complaints. “Rocky View is a rural municipality and they need bees to pollinate their crops. 
    “If you don’t have them, it makes a huge difference. I’ve noticed a big difference in my garden. Even my neighbours have said that the apple trees are now loaded with blooms. There are a lot of things that are just doing better. I had a great crop of squash and pumpkins, and often you need to hand pollinate them. Because we have the bees here, it’s much better.”
    Beekeeping isn’t exactly an easy hobby to start. It takes hundreds of dollars in start-up money, then courses are required to understand the nuances of how to take care of an active hive. 
    Giving up on their bees was something that Phillips and Weicht didn’t want to do, and now they won’t have to because of the online community.
    “It’s not for everybody and it’s expensive to get into it,” Phillips said. “You have the costs of equipment, medications, extracting equipment, suits and it keeps going on and on. It’s not a money-making operation on a scale like this.”
    Added Weicht: “We do it for the sheer joy of mucking around with them. We like that the kids are around them and see where their food comes from. This is why have gardens, keeps chickens … or have bees.”

    1 Comment

    1. Becky Coville

      April 26, 2017 at 7:25 pm

      Great article! People should be allowed to have bees. If powers that be try to get rid of them, we can say good-bye to our food.