Host-a-Hive brings bees home

Not all innovative ideas are born in a lab — some are born, quite literally, within the walls of your own home

gees bees swarm catch - web
By Lyndsey Smith for AgInnovation Ontario

Dunrobin, Ontario – When Marianne and Matt Gee bought their home on a small acreage west of Ottawa, they were surprised to find a honeybee hive had already taken up residence.

Not keen to exterminate these helpful pollinators, Matt relocated them to a box and set up the hive in the backyard with a little help from a local beekeeper. The couple soon became beekeepers by choice and discovered they really enjoyed keeping bees.

Soon a call came in about another hive found in a house — would they be interested in rescuing it? Matt, who worked in construction as a career, was in a unique position to access the bees and safely remove them. With Matt’s home building experience and the couple’s beekeeping knowledge, the Gees found themselves rescuing dozens of hives over a number of years.

Fast forward seven years to 2016, and Marianne and Matt are embarking on a much larger honeybee venture — one that moves from just rescuing bees to, instead, setting up individual honeybee hives across several Ottawa neighbourhoods.

Gees Bees Honey Company, as their company is called, recently launched their Host-a-Hive program where those interested in having bees in their backyard receive one complete honeybee hive set up for a year.flower with bees - webFor $37/ month, the Gees handle all of the work of caring for the hive, while homeowners enjoy the charm of the beehive and honey from their own backyard. Matt and Marianne make frequent visits once the hives are in place, usually beginning in the spring, and bring extra suits for host families interested in learning about rearing bees and honey production.

The Gees harvest the honey throughout the season and bottle it. As part of the program, homeowners receive 16 one-pound jars of honey, or about what a family would use in about a year, Matt says.

Marianne explains that because bees will forage up to five kilometres from home, homeowners don’t need to plant any special flowers or food sources; however, many of their first clients already have large vegetable gardens and flower beds and benefit from the added pollination.

The response to the Host-a-Hive program has been so positive they already have homes for all of their hives, plus a wait list. They also offer the service for restaurants and other businesses, where rooftop hives can provide honey for the menu as well as for rescue - webHoneybee hives are allowed within city limits, Matt says, however beehives must be placed at least 30 metres from a property line. That means most of the hosted hives are further out from the city centre, on acreages and larger lots.

The Gees have also purchased 25 acres near their current home where they plan to expand their own beekeeping operation and set up a pollinator sanctuary, creating a place where guests or school groups could come to learn about bees and the role pollinators play in food production.

As Marianne says, the Gees are passionate about helping bee populations thrive.

“I’m just as happy to see 10,000 people with one hive as one beekeeper with 10,000 hives,” she says.

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Photo source: Gees Bees