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Sobeys and Alvéole are beekeeping in the city with two beehives side-by-side in a towering city centre on a sunny day.
Sobeys and Alvéole are beekeeping in the city with two beehives side-by-side in a towering city centre on a sunny day.

From Hive to Home: Beekeeping in the City

Safeway is taking hyper-localized honey production to a new rooftop level, to create buzz and excitement around reconnecting to nature with our pollinators.

Using the hive mind of the teams at Alvéole, we’ve been welcoming busy bee pollinators onto our roofs. Beekeeping in the city since 2013, Alvéole has been working hard to spread the buzz on how to help make our cities green-smart and keep bees urban.

Read on to learn all about our honeybees and why gaining rooftop apiaries is so important or to sign up for a virtual Alvéole workshop!

Why It's Important to Keep Bees Urban

Pollinators all across the world are declining in numbers. But, luckily, populations of bees, including our honey-making neighbours, can flourish in urban environments. It turns out, sharing our skyscrapers in the city can be far more simple and buzzingly natural than we might think.

They just need a home filled to the brim with water, flowers, and a temperate climate, as well as a home absent of pesticides. The rest is up to them - they're pretty docile insects who love to work and work to live the nine-to-hive.

bulb-safeway Did you know?

At Safeway, there's a special breed of Italian bees on our rooftop. They make especially friendly neighbours as we keep bees urban!

But it's not just about bringing the hive alive. It's about boosting local agriculture, educating our kids about nature, and ensuring all the foods impacted by our tiny world's pollinators stay in the food chain.

Learn more about urban beekeeping in an exclusive interview with Alvéole Co-Founder and President, Alex Mclean.

The Benefits of Urban Beekeeping in the City

The benefits of urban beekeeping speak for themselves. While there are a few precautions required to keep things running smoothly, it’s easy to see the difference rooftop hives can make!

The Benefits:

  • Hyper-localized honey production
  • Minimal resources required
  • Repurposing unused grey spaces
  • Increases declining populations of bees
  • Brings together city dwellers
  • Helps develop green spaces
  • Bees are a docile pollinator
  • It can reduce hive diseases
  • Prevents the heat island effect
  • It offers safe hive locations
  • Reduces swarming
Find out even more benefits and reasons why we should keep bees urban at an Alvéole-hosted virtual workshop!

The Cons:

    • Hives can swarm

 

    • Experienced beekeepers are needed

 

    • Some people can have allergic reactions

 

And that's pretty much it; there's a whole hive of reasons for beekeeping in the city - and that's why we have partnered with Alvéole. We're taking action now, so we can see a brighter and greener future for our kids and our bees (plus that sweet golden honey, too!).

bulb-safeway Did you know?

The flavours of hyper-localized honey you can get from the hives above your store will reflect the ecosystem surrounding it. So, you can say our hive’s honey will taste of the flowers around us!

Queen
Queen
Queen
Queen

How Many Bees There Are a Hive

In the wild, bee populations can vary but in each of our apiaries here at Safeway, there will be as many as 50,000 honeybees! And, it’s up to all of us to spread the buzz about keeping these hives healthy so they can thrive.

As the general population migrates to urban centres (by 2030, over half the world's bee population will live in cities), it’s important for us to create homes where pollinators can thrive.

bulb-safeway Did you know?

While there are 50,000 bees a hive, they’re not all the same! There are actually four different types of the honeybees, each with their own role.

The 4 types of bees you'll find with our beekeeping in the city project:

A close up of an Italian queen bee on a white background is seen from the side with the head on the right.

The Queen

Each hive has one Queen who can live for up to five years (much longer than her workers and drones) as she will lay nearly 2,000 eggs every day! But it will be her close court of bees who help to feed, hydrate, and clean her.

A close up of an Italian field worker bee on a white background is seen from the side with the head on the right.

The Field Worker

The field worker is a female bee who beats her wings about 11,400 times per minute to fly in search of the best blooms. She will only live between 30 and 45 days but, during this time, she will wear her striped jacket for building and foraging!

A close up of an Italian house worker bee on a white background is seen from the side with the head on the left.

The House Worker

The house worker bee is just like the field worker bee, but with a slightly different role in the hive. Instead of flying out of the hive, this all-female group stays at home to clean, nurse, fan, and guard.

A close up of an Italian drone bee on a white background is seen from the side with the head on the right.

The Drone

The drone is the male honeybee of the hive and the name says it all! The drone bee doesn't really do much. However, they still have the very important role of keeping the hive alive by being a great sport and helping the Queen with the reproduction of the species!

Which type of worker do you think you would bee? to book your space at a virtual Alvéole workshop to see the Queen and find out!

bulb-safeway Did you know?

A hive is home to both worker bees and drone bees but only 10% are drones while the remaining 90% are all worker bees bringing us honey.

A Hive of Bee Facts for Beekeeping in the City

  • Workers will always dedicate their lives to their own colony and will never leave it for a different hive.
  • If you've ever wondered about bee eyesight, you might think they're colourblind. But they simply see our world differently because they see the blue-scale with vibrant violets, purples, and blues!
  • Just like us, as worker bees get older, they'll be given more complex tasks inside and out of the hive. For example, they'll be told to make wax for building.
  • Worker bees will have different lifespans depending on the time of year. The worker bees living above our Safeway stores will live approximately 3 to 6 weeks in the summer and 3 to 6 months in the winter!
  • Bees will communicate with each other by sensing pheromones. These are "smells" like hormones and are a response to other members of the hive.
  • The professionals of beekeeping in the city at Alvéole estimate that bees need to eat around 9 pounds of their own honey just to produce one pound of beeswax!

Harvesting Hyper-Localized Honey

The practice of procuring honey around the world is called Apiculture (but is more commonly known as bee farming). And while we aren't farming the bees, we're farming their produce: honey.

bulb-safeway Did you know?

Our fuzzy honeybee friends will only produce around ⅛ of a teaspoon of honey in their entire lifetime!

With high standards of beekeeping around Canada, farming for honey is actually very sustainable in keeping our bees happy and our environment thriving.

With bee-experts like Alvéole, we can make sure we're using kind, sustainable, and humane methods to harvest our hyper-localized honey. One way is to identify the Queen and place her in a separate and temporary hive. The rest of the colony will simply follow!

Then, it's time to take a capping scratcher and carve hive cells off the board (these contain lots of sweet honey). Both the wax hive cells and the honey should drop into a crank-extractor which spins to release the honey from the honeycomb.

And that's how hive honeycomb becomes the magical golden syrup we know and love.

How Kids Can Help to Save The Bees

It's easy to bee a supporting sport for our pollinating colonies. In fact, saving the bees is something the whole family can join in on with fun activities like planting violet flowers all around the backyard!

Yet, one of the biggest strides families can take toward a future with healthy populations of honeybees and local agriculture is to become part of the buzz! And we're here to help that happen with virtual workshops.

From the comfort of your own home, you and your kids can learn even more about the Queen bee, her workers, and her drones. Plus, of course, all the reasons we should keep bees urban. Then, we can all become a colony of hyper-local foodies with a knack for bringing the green back to our gardens with fewer pesticides, fewer monocultures, and more buzzing bees.

Did you know?

Our black and yellow friends will only produce around ⅛ of a teaspoon of honey in their entire lifetime!

Discover how kids can help to save the bees (and how you can, too) by finding your local Safeway store with an Alvéole urban beehive on top:

Store Locations

  • Safeway Aspen
    375 Aspen Glen Landing SW Calgary AB T3H 0N6
    Alberta
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  • Safeway Castleridge
    55 Castleridge Boulevard NE Calgary AB T3J 3J8
    Alberta
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  • Safeway Crowfoot
    99 Crowfoot Crescent NW Calgary AB T3G 2L5
    Alberta
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  • Safeway Downtown
    697 Bernard Avenue Kelowna BC V1Y 6P4
    British Columbia
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  • Safeway Garneau
    10930 - 82 Avenue NW Edmonton AB T6G 0S8
    Alberta
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  • Safeway Garrison Woods
    2425-34 Avenue SW Calgary AB T2T 6E3
    Alberta
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  • Safeway Heritage
    2304-109 Street NW Edmonton AB T6J 5E5
    Alberta
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  • Safeway Kensington
    410 10 Street NW Calgary AB T2N 1V9
    Alberta
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  • Safeway Manning Crossing
    500 Manning Crossing NW Edmonton AB T5A 5A1
    Alberta
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  • Safeway Mission
    524 Elbow Drive SW Calgary AB T2S 2H6
    Alberta
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  • Safeway Montgomery
    5048 - 16 Avenue NW Calgary AB T3B 0N3
    Alberta
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  • Safeway South Trail Crossing
    100, 4915 - 130 Avenue SE Calgary AB T2Z 3V8
    Alberta
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  • Safeway The Grange
    2534 Guardian Road Edmonton AB T5T 1K8
    Alberta
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  • Safeway Burnaby Heights
    4440 Hastings Street Burnaby BC V5C 2K2
    British Columbia
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  • Safeway E Langley Ctr
    20871 Fraser Highway Langley BC V3A 4G7
    British Columbia
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  • Safeway East Broadway
    1780 East Broadway Vancouver BC V5N 1W3
    British Columbia
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  • Safeway King Edward
    990 King Edward Avenue West Vancouver BC V5Z 2M9
    British Columbia
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  • Safeway Kitsilano
    2315 West 4 Avenue Vancouver BC V6K 1P2
    British Columbia
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  • Safeway Lynn Valley
    1170 East 27 Street North Vancouver BC V7J 1S1
    British Columbia
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  • Safeway Marpole
    8475 Granville St. Vancouver BC V6P 4Z9
    British Columbia
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  • Safeway McBride
    800 McBride Boulevard New Westminster BC V3L 2B8
    British Columbia
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  • Safeway Parkgate
    1175 Mt.Seymour Road North Vancouver BC V7H 2Y4
    British Columbia
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  • Safeway Peninsula
    700 15355 -24 Avenue Surrey BC V4A 2H9
    British Columbia
    Get Directions
  • Safeway Robson Street
    1766 Robson Street Vancouver BC V6G 1E2
    British Columbia
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  • Safeway Shaughnessy
    1100 2850 Shaughnessy Street Port Coquitlam BC V3C 6K5
    British Columbia
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  • Safeway Sunshine Hills
    6401 120 Street Delta BC V4E 3G3
    British Columbia
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  • Safeway West Broadway
    2733 WestBroadway Vancouver BC V6K 2G5
    British Columbia
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Add A Spoonful of Honey To Your Recipes

From adding a sweet twist to a hot drink in the morning to a new taste for the whole family to enjoy together around the dinner table. Honey is a versatile ingredient for so many things and has been used for thousands of years!

bulb-safeway Did you know?

Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and sacred Indian writings refer to honey as being sacramental, special, and precious! These cultures of long ago would even use honey as a form of currency and a gift.

The golden honey our rooftop bees will make in their hives is a natural ingredient filled to the brim with nourishing tastes. So much so, it can go with nearly anything and a little experimentation with a drizzle of honey in the kitchen is always something fun the family can enjoy.

That said, while honey may be a natural and delicious ingredient, it still needs to be enjoyed in moderation!

Take a look at some of our favourite honey-drizzled recipes here at Safeway: