Bees are the buzz at a new pot store on London's outskirts.
In a bid to save bees, Neat Cannabis Co. Ltd. has mounted a hive outside its Komoka store to educate customers about the insect's rapidly declining population.
It may be the first cannabis retailer in Ontario, or Canada, with a live beehive on its property, according to Neat brand director Leeanna Newton.
"It's never been done before on a retail cannabis space, that we're aware of, so we're really proud of that," she said.
"The project is more than an eco-initiative that would create a social responsibility footprint," Newton said. "We wanted something our customers and team can engage in and benefit the community directly."
The 1-hive project was created in collaboration with a local beekeeper, a pot accessory company and developer Norquay Property Management Ltd.
Neat's store at 9952 Glendon Dr. opened last month, about six months after its London location debuted. They're among more than 1,000 licensed cannabis retail stores in Ontario.
The large 1-hive sign on the grassy lot next to the hive is hard to miss.
Bees are responsible for one of every three bites of food, from sugar and coffee to apples and nuts, yet one in three bees may not survive into the next year due to environmental and human-caused pressures, namely pesticides, Newton said.
Customers are encouraged to learn more about declining bee populations by reading a pamphlet and visiting the hive after entering the store.
They can contribute to the initiative, too. A portion of sales of Bzz Stash Boxes, bamboo containers for storing pot and pot accessories, goes directly to bee preservation efforts, including 1-hive.
"When I started (my company), I wanted to do something to give back," said Jonny Sikkema, founder of London-based Bzz Box.
"If there was anything I wanted to contribute to, it was the environment," he said. "I have kids. They're going to have kids someday. I want to make sure that there's still a place for them to live in."
The 1-hive effort was inspired by a Dutch project that turned tops of bus stops into green roofs so urban bees had a spot to land, he said.
After the City of London turned down a similar initiative, Sikkema teamed up with Newton and Neat to launch the Komoka beehive project.
Dan Heffernan, a commercial beekeeper who tends the hive, said it houses between 35,000 and 40,000 bees this time of year – enough to pollinate nearly 7.8 billion flowers in three months.
Heffernan, who owns Heff's Hives in London, said the bees are in a prime location, far enough from nearby properties but close enough to encourage customers and bystanders to learn more.
"Most commercial hive yards are where people can't see them . . . We want to bring (hives) from the back of the farm out to your curb," he said. "I want people to understand and advocate with these two organizations for bees (and) for pollinators in general."
The 1-hive project runs year-round, with the population decreasing in winter and regenerating again come spring. The store carries an EpiPen for those allergic to bee stings in case of an emergency.
Since its August launch, the project has drawn positive feedback from customers, residents and the wider cannabis community, Newton said. "Within one week, we were getting comments and feedback (from) as far as Zimbabwe, Cyprus, Switzerland, England, that wanted to partake in the project or adopt pieces of it."
Now, Neat is calling on cannabis retailers across Canada to follow its lead.
"It costs about $3 a day, but it has a far-reaching impact on the community and . . . environment," Newton said. "It's a fun, educational piece, and there's a clear line of sight for the community to see its effects."
Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press