Quebec’s Bees Act allows urban beekeeping under certain conditions. While some Montreal boroughs give beekeeping the green light so long as bees don’t cause trouble, others regard bees as pests requiring extermination. New hives are popping up in different parts of the city, which suggests a changing attitude. But challenges persist. Beekeepers say people don’t understand bees and confuse docile honeybees with aggressive wasps and hornets.
“When you say 'bee' it equals stinging, anaphylactic shock and death” says Branislav Babic, who founded the McGill Apiculture Association in 2007. “They [honeybees] don’t sting just for nothing,” says Babic. “You have to step on it or poke around a hive entrance for a bee to sting you.”
When he arrived as a microbiology student at McGill University’s Macdonald campus, Babic says he was “shocked” to find no beehives. “There is no beekeeping culture here like there is in Europe,” says Babic, who used to raise bees in Serbia. “Back there no one is bothered by bees unless someone puts them in front of a sidewalk.”
Today approximately 80 members look after the MAA’s public, communal apiary on Macdonald campus, which consists of a row of 16 colourful hives sitting quietly on farmland near an overpass for Highway 20.