The town of Fort Frances is being asked to give our local bee population a helping hand next spring.
At last Monday night’s town council meeting, mayor and councillors heard a deputation from Reagan Breeze of Dryden in regards to an initiative he is at the forefront of that aims to protect honeybees and give them every possible fighting chance to thrive as the weather begins to warm up in April and May.
“We are looking at something that is more than climate change,” Breeze told council.
“It’s a decline in our honeybees and as much as somebody may think that that is not that important, we have to understand the fact that there’s a lack of education about honeybees and what they give to us. Every time we have our supper or lunch or breakfast, it’s one third of our food source that comes from our pollinators and our honeybees.”
As part of his efforts, Breeze asked the town to declare April and May as Honeybee Appreciation Month, something he said he’s seen movement on from other municipalities he’s spoken with, including Dryden, whose council passed a motion at the end of October declaring April and May of 2021 to be their own Honeybee Appreciation Months.
In addition to asking the town to recognize special months for bees, Breeze also took aim at one of the town’s bylaws, asking that council work with him in order to provide a temporary easement of bylaw enforcement to allow more protection for bees.
“Your bylaws are very easy... I appreciate that and amongst all of us other beekeepers within Ontario, in Canada... appreciate it as well,” Breeze said.
“Within your regulations we also have your bylaws 3.03, subsection 3, which is the weeds for four inches of growth only. I am not asking for everybody within the Fort Frances area to grow a hay field, but I am asking for mayor and council, respectively, to have an easement to show remorse for the fact that we need to sustain our honeybees and our pollinators that are the most viable species for our existence.”
According to the Town of Fort Frances bylaw 14/09, Section 3 (General Standards for All Property), subsection 3.03 declares: “Every yard, including vacant lots shall be kept free from: (3) long grass, brush, undergrowth and noxious weeds as defined by the Weed Control Act; a. all grassed and lawned areas shall be maintained to a maximum height of 100mm (4in).”
Springtime is generally when honeybees emerge from their hives and are at their most active, with the Sioux Honey Co-op, located in Sioux City, Iowa, explaining that bees will use the season to expand their numbers following the cold winter months.
“The first action of business for the colony as the weather changes is increasing its population in advance of summer’s warmth,” they explain on their website.
“Spring is the busiest time of year for the bees, not only because of restocking food but it’s also the season when new colonies are started and established colonies re-emerge.”
Part of the crop of flowers that bloom in those early months is the dandelion, which is an important food source for bees, but is also viewed as a pesky weed by many homeowners, some of whom go to great lengths to remove them from their yards. The easement of the bylaw would therefore allow homeowners in Fort Frances to grow their lawns out, along with any flowering plants in their yard, during the months of April and May when honeybees are trying to get back on their feet without potentially incurring a fine.
Breeze also called on council to amend other parts of bylaws including references to injurious insects, which he said should be reworded in order to exclude honeybees from the likes of wasps and hornets.
Honey is also a multi-billion dollar industry on a global scale, according to Breeze, which makes
honeybees worth protecting and supporting on an economic level.
Mayor June Caul thanked Breeze for his presentation to council and the recommendation was made that his request be presented to the Planning and Development Executive Committee for recommendation. At their meeting on Monday, November 16, the Planning and Development Executive Committee made the recommendation that the town proclaim April and May as Honey Bee Appreciation months in town, but that existing bylaws be left unchanged.
The item will return to council at their November 23 meeting for a final decision.
Ken Kellar, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times