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A couple of months ago I met a very interesting man at a local business meeting (Don Mills Business Connections) hosted by the Donway Place. He started his speech with “Good morning everyone. My name is Ardi Veselaj and I am a local beekeeper.” Local beekeeper – my interest was piqued. He went on to say, “Very, very local … so local that my bees may have greeted you on your way to the building. This is my third year as a hobbyist beekeeper and I have five hives. Two of them located in the garden, right outside this building.”
Ardi started thinking about honey bees about five years ago, as a way to stay grounded and keep in touch with his heritage. He wanted his children to get a sense of where things came from and the effort that goes into bringing food to the table. Honey bees have fascinated him since his early childhood. His father kept bees and his uncle after his father passed away. So, three years ago he decided to start keeping honey bees. It was in a way a two-way street he thought: he’d save the bees and they would help him build a bond with his children as he had done with father and uncle.
Lynn, the director at the Donway Place had asked if they could have honey bees in the their backyard. Ardi found the question a bit strange. Most people run away when they learn that there are bees around. Why would someone who has so many residents and visiting families want to keep honey bees? Her answer was simple – “It’s the right thing to do. It is socially responsible and environmentally friendly. The bees will be a symbol of life for the place and the residents will love them.”
Ardi ordered two hives for the Donway Place. There was an informative presentation made and then dozen of questions from curious residents. But, in the end they were all on-board. The hives were beautifully painted by the residents, and the staff helped Ardi to take care of them.
Although the bees didn’t produce any honey this year they were ready to tackle the Canadian winter.
Ardi comes in almost every week to check on them and has created a bond with the residents, the bees, the staff and the nature around him.
Having the bees in a retirement home has changed the way the residents and their families are thinking about bees.
The residents are asking: where do bees get their food from? That spurred them to start thinking about the parks, the plants and the flowers surrounding the building.
They ask: what do they do over the winter? That spurred them to start thinking about climate change and the weather in general.
They ask: will they have enough food with this year’s drought. That spurred them to start thinking about the bees as they’d think about their children.
That’s so fulfilling for Ardi and Lynn. It’s satisfying and rewarding. People are thinking about things that we generally take for granted (food, climate, nature).
So, why are bees good? Why should we save them?
Good questions. Bees help pollinate flowers and plants. Bees visit millions of flowers to produce one pound of honey. By doing so, they ensure biodiversity which is crucial to life on earth.
One out of every three bites of food we eat is a result of pollinators like honey
bees, and crops like blueberries and cherries are 90 per cent dependent on pollination. Honey bees are so important that farmers often have bee hives transported and then placed on their farm to provide pollination for their crops.
Looking at traffic patterns, weather patterns and local bylaws about bees, Ardi has learned so much and is sharing so much with the people around him and it’s all because of the bees. He feels that they have made him a better person and have enriched his life.
Ardi’s believes that if we can get someone to switch to a healthy snack – we’ve made a difference.
If we can help someone pick a new hobby – we’ve made a difference.
If we can inspire someone to achieve a new goal – we’ve made a difference.
If we can motivate someone to read a new book – we’ve made a difference.
Keeping and carrying for bees might not be for everyone, so find your own “beehive” and try to make a difference.
Thank you Ardi for working with the bees at the Donway Place. Our hope is that not only are you bringing a sense of responsibility and joy to residents and their families but that one day your children will carry on in your footsteps.
This article has been edited from Ardi Veselaj’s speech.