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Two rooftop beehives branded with Sobeys and Alvéole are side-by-side on a rooftop in a towering city centre on a sunny day
Two rooftop beehives branded with Sobeys and Alvéole are side-by-side on a rooftop in a towering city centre on a sunny day

Bringing the Buzz to the Basket with Alvéole

As a family nurturing families here at Sobeys, we’ve partnered with Alvéole in a new honeybee project to nurture a very important pollinating family: bees.

Using urban rooftop beehives, we’re bringing message honey to your home, while giving one to the bees on top of our selected Sobeys stores.

Since 2013, Alvéole has been installing beehives all across North America (and France!) to educate people about beekeeping. Whether it’s schools, families, or large companies, they’re helping spread the buzz about important issues surrounding industrial agriculture. For example, the use of pesticides, monocultures, and the loss of biodiversity.

Read on to learn more about urban beekeeping and how to help the bees in Canada. Or click here to secure a space at one of our virtual workshops with Alvéole!

What Urban Beekeeping is

Urban beekeeping simply means keeping bees for mutually beneficial purposes within an urban environment, such as in rooftop beehives. And, when we say urban beekeeping, we really mean making use of city building grey spaces that otherwise contribute to the heat island effect!

Not only does urban beekeeping reduce environmental impact, but it also brings honey production to a hyper-local level, reduces monocultures, and increases pollinator populations to help local ecosystems thrive. Now that’s what we call a win-win!

The process is simpler than you might think: there’s the apiary, the bees, and the beekeeper. The only hard part is safely moving a colony to an urban environment to help save the bees in Canada. After this, it’s a case of checking the hive every three weeks to make sure each little buzzer is happy, healthy, and thriving!

Learn more about the heart of the hive with Alex Mclean, President and Co-Founder of Alvéole

sobeys bulbDid you know?

Each hive in our honeybee project will house around 50,000 individual buzzing bees!

The Benefits of Urban Beekeeping

All around the world, we’re seeing a decline in the populations of bees. There are unsustainable methods used in agriculture that not only harm bee-kind (such as the use of pesticides) but can cause habitat loss and contribute to climate change.

So, there’s a whole hive of reasons why urban beekeeping can make a difference. Using rooftop beehives - just like the ones on selected Sobeys stores - we can:

  • Support ecological agriculture
  • Help hives grow
  • Reduce pesticide use
  • Keep colonies healthy
  • Hyper-localize honey production
  • Preserve new habitats
  • Keep annual flowers blooming
  • Provide safe water to bees
  • Educate our beekeepers of tomorrow
  • Reduce unhealthy bee farming

Why Bees Make Honey

Long story short, bees make honey to eat it! They store all their hive-made honey in honeycomb so they have a good source of energy for the winter when the flowers aren’t in bloom.

Worker bees will travel out of their rooftop beehives and explore within a 5 km radius. They’ll buzz over to a pretty flower and use their long tongues to collect nectar from a plant’s nectary (it’s a special plant organ!).

The worker bee then takes this nectar back to the hive for the magic to begin! The bee will pass the nectar back to a house worker bee who dries the nectar using a warm breeze from their wings to take the honey from 80% moisture to 20%.

Finally, the sugary-sweet honey is placed in individual cells in the hive before being covered by a wax lid for storage. Luckily, honey can be stored indefinitely at room temperature because of its high sugar content.

sobeys bulbDid you know?

Depending on the flower the worker bees take their nectar from, honey’s flavour can range from mild and sweet to strong and bitter!

The Bees Making Honey in Canada

There are over 800 species of native bees throughout Canada. Some are solitary, and others are hive-bound! For example, one type of bee in Nova Scotia called the ‘sweat bee’ has a shiny green body and is often mistaken for the common housefly!

But, there’s really only one species of bee capable of making our honey; honey that’s made-at-hive with love by the honeybee.

Scientifically, these bees are called “Apis Mellifera”, and they were imported from Europe centuries ago for their sheer honey-making value and calm temperament.

Meet your Canadian-European honeybees at a virtual urban beekeeping workshop with hive-mind Alvéole!

If you want to know what happens after the yearly fall harvest, our fuzzy Italian bees have their plan. In fact, in the words of our partners over at Alvéole, “beekeeping takes a holiday during the winter months”.

During the winter, our rooftop beehives will keep the bees comfortably warm and cozy! Here, they’ll cluster around the Queen and stay warm by contracting their thoracic muscles (the middle part of the bee!). In fact, temperatures can even reach a cozy 35°C inside these rooftop beehives!

sobeys bulbDid you know?

To make approximately 2 and a half jars of honey, our Canadian honeybee will fly the equivalent of four times the Earth’s circumference!

How to Help The Bees in Canada

plant

Plant a bee-loving garden with bright flowers of violet and blue to attract our honeybees and let them do what they buzz best!

chemical-free

Try going chemical-free. Whether it’s pesticide use at home or helping out farmer friends with other ideas to help keep their crops healthy.

bee

Why not fly into the realms of becoming a bee specialist yourself? Or encourage the little ones to discover their own passions as a beekeeper or environmentalist.

trees

Our bees need trees, too. So, make sure to always be on the side of nature’s giants when you look to the smaller wonders and help the bees in Canada.

honey

Opt for hyper-localized production of grocery items such as wax, shampoo, honey, candles, balms, perfumes, and so much more!

learn

Become a student for the day and learn more about bees at a virtual workshop with Avéole. This way, you and the little ones can “spread the buzz” with our Sobeys honeybee project.

You can find out how to help the bees in Canada even more by visiting one of the select Sobeys stores with Alvéole rooftop beehives:

Store Locations

  • Sobeys Country Hills
    200 500 Country Hills Blvd NE Calgary AB T3K 4Y7
    Alberta
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  • Sobeys Forest Lawn
    5101 - 17 Avenue S.E. CALGARY AB T2A 0V7
    Alberta
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  • Sobeys Hollick Kenyon
    5119 - 167 Ave NW Edmonton AB T5Y 0L2
    Alberta
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  • Sobeys Mahogany
    #1200, 7 Mahogany Plaza SE Calgary AB T3M 2P8
    Alberta
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  • Sobeys McKenzie Towne
    20 MCKENZIE TOWNE AVENUE SE CALGARY AB T2Z 3S7
    Alberta
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  • Sobeys Millrise
    #2000, 150 Millrise Blvd SW Calgary AB T2Y 5G7
    Alberta
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  • Sobeys Millwoods Common
    5011 23 Ave Edmonton AB T6L 7G5
    Alberta
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  • Sobeys Silverado
    #704, 19369 Sheriff King St SW Calgary AB T2X 0T9
    Alberta
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  • Sobeys Southbrook
    1109 JAMES MOWATT TRAIL Edmonton AB T6W 1S4
    Alberta
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  • Sobeys Strathcona
    300-555 Strathcona Blvd. SW Calgary AB T3H 2Z9
    Alberta
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  • Sobeys Bradford
    40 Melbourne Drive Bradford ON L3Z 3B8
    Ontario
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  • Sobeys Danforth
    2451 Danforth Ave East Toronto ON M4C 1L1
    Ontario
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  • Sobeys Extra Burlington-Brnt
    1250 Brant Street Burlington ON L7P 1X8
    Ontario
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  • Sobeys Glen Abbey
    1500 Upper Middle Road Oakville ON L6M 3G3
    Ontario
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  • Sobeys Kanata
    700 Terry Fox Drive Kanata ON K2L 4H4
    Ontario
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  • Sobeys March Road Kanata
    840 March Road Kanata ON K2W 0C9
    Ontario
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  • Sobeys Todmorden East York
    1015 Broadview Avenue Toronto ON M4K 2S2
    Ontario
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  • Sobeys Trim & Innes Cumberland
    5150 Innes Road Orleans ON K4A 0G4
    Ontario
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  • Sobeys Maplegrove
    511 Maple Grove Drive Oakville ON L6J 4W3
    Ontario
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  • Sobeys Queensway Etobicoke
    125 The Queensway Etobicoke ON M8Y 1H6
    Ontario
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  • Sobeys Whitby
    1615 Dundas Street East Whitby ON L1N 2L1
    Ontario
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  • Ajax
    260 Kingston Road West Ajax ON L1T 4E4
    Ontario
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How to Avoid a Bee Sting with the Honey Bees Project

Bees are very commonly mistaken for wasps because of their similar appearances (at least to the naked eye!). And, with this, there are so many of us who think our buzz-friends will sting us without reason. But it’s not true!

The bees making a home in our rooftop beehives are very docile and won’t want to sting at all. The reason is that bees will pass away when they sting because their stinger gets stuck and, when they leave, it tears away and takes their abdomen with it. Which makes for quite the final act in life!

That said, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful when sharing the city as we help the bees in Canada. After all, just like us, the pollinators in our honeybee project are just as likely to become defensive of their colony if they feel threatened.

So, just remember how to “beehave” around a beehive. Turn a beekeeping experience into an awe-inspiring adventure with rooftop beehives just by staying calm, moving slowly, and keeping a distance from the heart of the hive. Sting chances will be nearly zero with this honeybee project!

sobeys bulbDid you know?

The Queen bee has a smoother stinger and is able to use it multiple times when battling for her colony without it getting stuck!

7 steps to take if you’ve been stung by a bee:

  1. Step away from the hive
    The last thing you want after a bee sting is another one. So, be sure to step away from the hive (or where you think the hive might be) and allow yourself to react with a hearty scream!
  2. Find a place to sit down
    There’s no way of knowing how your skin could react or even how you could react as a whole. If paper cuts and splinters get to you, you’ll want to take a seat before moving onto the next step.
  3. Remove the stinger
    It’s super important you don’t just grab and pull the stinger away. The top of the stinger still has venom in it and you risk squeezing that into your skin. So, use a card or your fingernail and gently push the stinger out from the side.
  4. Assess the sting zone reaction
    You’ll want to see whether you’ve got general symptoms (known as a local reaction) or some slightly worse symptoms (which is called a systemic reaction and could be a sign of an allergy).
  5. Treat the local reaction
    If you’ve got a local reaction, it’s likely there’ll be a bit of redness in the sting zone as well as some swelling and pain. So, grab yourself some ice, avoid scratching your sting zone, and head to your local pharmacy for some sting relief!
  6. Request immediate help for a systemic reaction
    With a systemic reaction, you’ll have all the local reaction symptoms plus some extras such as dizziness, difficulty breathing, and nausea. If this is the case, reach for an EpiPen (which the Alvéole team is always equipped with!), call 911, and ask someone to keep you company while you seek medical support.
  7. Remember how to “beehave” around a beehive
    You and the little ones can turn a beekeeping experience into an awe-inspiring adventure with rooftop beehives just by staying calm, moving slowly, and keeping a distance from the heart of the hive. Sting chances will be nearly zero!

The Role of These Buzzing Pollinators in Your Food

Honeybees play a crucial role from breakfast through to dinner. In fact, the decline in pollinators like our bees and butterflies coincides with a growth in demand for agriculture, resulting in a rise in food costs!

sobeys bulbDid you know?

Bees will buzz to nearly 3 million flowers for every pound of deliciously runny honey they make!

Pollinators are the reason our plants can thrive and bring us so many of the deliciously nourishing foods in our diet. They’re actually responsible for pollinating over 130 varieties of fruits and vegetables (which is over a third of all foods we eat!).

To summarize, honeybees make excellent pollinators. With thanks, in part, to their large colony numbers. And they’re available on-demand: many crop farmers even depend on beekeepers to travel to their location with hundreds of hives in tow!

Almonds, cranberries, apples, blueberries, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, asparagus, avocados, coffee: these are just some examples of the crops that entirely depend on pollinating insects. This is why we are taking on the urban honeybee project; so we can continue to feed and nurture your family as well as help the bees in Canada!