Get the buzz on beekeeping at fall fair

TERRACE CAN boast about many local food growers and providers, including having the “champagne of honey.”

TERRACE CAN boast about many local food growers and providers, including having the “champagne of honey.”

Fireweed honey has its own colour – almost clear – and is considered the best in the world, says beekeeper Cynthia Ridler, of Mountain Meadow Honey.

“Once you taste it, you’re going to be spoiled,” she says.

Ridler started with a couple of beehives in 1994 and around 2004, she started doing it as a business, she says. She sells it at the farmers market if there’s a lot of it, otherwise she sells to local people and online to some friends.

And thanks to a city bylaw, backyard bees are allowed here with certain restriction – for example, a backyard beekeeper is only allowed to have one or two hives.

“A lot of backyard beekeepers just want one or two hives for their own honey and to get back to a little more control on their own food sources,” she says. At the fall fair this year, Ridler and others plan on doing a honey extraction demonstration by hand and with an electrical extractor and hand out information among other things, says Ridler.

How does she know that her bees are producing fireweed honey when they can go to many different plants? “The significant crop is fireweed,” she says, adding that to call it fireweed honey, a majority of the flowers in the area have to be fireweed.

Store bought honey can be pasteurized and she says it’s not clear why.

“Honey is one substance on earth that never spoils,” says Ridler.

Honey has been found in pyramids and the Egyptians used it to embalm people, she explains.

It was also used for wax and is good because it doesn’t produce carbon monoxide and cleans the air, she says.

The beekeepers at the fall fair plan to hand out information; some of which is little known things about bees and honey.

How much honey she gets from her hives depends on the weather.

“Some years we have hives with over 300 pounds of honey each. Last year I never took any honey at all,” she says, adding that this summer has been better. “We need a combination of it (rain and sun). Bees don’t thrive in extremes,” she says.

Ridler invites everyone to come out to the fair and ask questions of the beekeepers.

“We can provide them with information, how to get started,” she says about those who might be interested in starting their own hives.

Ridler knows the bees so well, she doesn’t wear protective clothing much any more. If you’re checking inside the hive where the queen is and it’s a nice cool day, you could destroy the brood stock and you’re going to get stung, she says.

“On a sunny, hot day where they’re actually trying to cool off, they’re happy you’re doing that and they don’t bother you a bit,” she says, adding she might wear the veil sometimes because bees will fly up in your face and startle you, which startles them and can lead to getting stung. And it’s been determined that bees get to know you, she says.

Backyard beekeepers will be at the Thornhill Community Centre during the fall fair Sept. 8 – 9.