What’s the Buzz at the Museum? Actual Bees!

By Maurice Tougas

Beekeeper Enessa Habib talking to a crowd of people while she inspects a bee hive

While superstar Beyonce may be the pop world’s Queen B, Edmonton Enessa Habib is Edmonton’s very own Queen Bee.

Habib is the brains – and even the brawn – behind the YEG Honeycomb project, which has again set up its sweet shop at the Alberta Aviation Museum.

The YEG Honeycomb initiative is a three-year pilot project, supported by the City of Edmonton, highlighting the benefits of urban beekeeping and urban history by combining both into a unique opportunity that demonstrates the value of bringing bees into the urban landscape. The project aims to create new opportunities for urban beekeeping in Edmonton, use beekeeping for celebrating Edmonton’s historic sites, and foster community connections through beekeeping.

I wanted to introduce beekeeping to the community in a meaningful way,” Habib says.

Habib, founder of the project, is attempting to do that by incorporating her many interests into YEG Honeycomb.

I really enjoy dabbling in all my interests, which include the culinary scene in Edmonton, the arts and culture scene, and I really enjoy history.

Habib is a backyard beekeeper. When the idea for YEG Honeycomb started buzzing around her brain, she started to think about locations for the hives.

I thought, what about landmarks around the city? What about rooftops?

Rooftops in particular appealed to her, since a rooftop hive forces people to look up at the building and admire the architectural features of the building.

She settled on a number of locations, some city owned and some not. In fact, in some of the buildings where she wanted to house a hive, she wasn’t even sure what went on in the facility.

For example, the Grierson Centre is a correctional centre. I’ve driven past that gorgeous brick building so many times without knowing what it was used for.”

“I just went in one day, and there’s just little old me and a bunch of scary looking police officers, and I said, ‘Can I put bees on your roof?’” she says, laughing.

She was warmly welcomed there, and at other locations in the city, like the Alberta Aviation Museum. The other locations are the Old Man Creek Nursery, the Alberta Hospital Edmonton, Chancery Hall, Fort Edmonton and the Magrath Mansion (now Magrath Campus).

A number of factors come into play when placing a hive, like proximity to clean water, the river valley or other natural areas. These factors help the bees thrive.

two bees, loaded with pollen go through the entrance of a bee hive

The hive at the museum is at ground level. And while honeybees can, of course, sting, she says bees are actually friendly, and it is “not in their best interests” to sting you. (Bees die after stinging.)

If there is a honey bee buzzing around your head, it’s probably because you are in its flight path, not because it wants to sting you.

Beekeeping is not cheap, and right now she is footing the bill for everything. Last year, she invested about $10,000 in all the paraphernalia needed for beekeeping. This year, she has already spent at least $2,000 to buy new bees, because of large losses incurred last year, a problem faced by beekeepers across the province due to weather and a problem with mites.

A first-ever event at the museum helped defray some of the costs associated with YEG Honeycomb. Wop May Night at the museum, presented by YEG Honeycomb, opened the doors to the museum for an elegant nighttime experience. It was an evening of story-telling, live entertainment, VIP concessions, ‘bush pilot dining’, and the museum’s premiere of the outstanding short film, Blind Ambition: The Wop May Story. (See story on Blind Ambition here.) Director Frederick Kroetsch was on hand to discuss the film. The evening also included the debut of Wop May IPA, from the Edmonton Brewing & Malting Company, and a locally-curated grazing table.

Habib does bee talks for visitors every 2nd Monday throughout the summer, which are listed on the museum website. You can read more about YEG Honeycomb at www.yeghoneycomb.ca