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With so much focus on climate change and the need for biodiversity, bee tourism has taken flight – providing an entertaining (and tasty) way to learn about the importance of bees and the role they play here in Ontario.

June 20 to June 26 is National Pollinator Week, kicking off a summer of bee-related activities in the province, including farm experiences, honey-making tours and mead tasting. Simcoe County, for example, has developed the first honey trail in Ontario, designed to celebrate the history of beekeeping in our communities.

In York Durham Headwaters, Sarah Allinson-Chorabik and her husband, Peter Chorabik, own Ontario Honey Creations, which specializes in terroir honey, artisanal honey vinegars and meads. The couple also rescues honeybees as part of their sister company, Toronto Bee Rescue. This summer, they’ll be offering more agritourism experiences in which guests can suit up and see the bees up close.

“Depending on their comfort level they can hold the frame and see the queen up close,” Allinson-Chorabik says. “One of the fun behaviours is the waggle dance. … It’s like a figure-eight pattern, and the angles and speed at which they do it is how they communicate. People love to see that.”

Each hive houses about 60,000 to 80,000 bees, so guests usually gasp when they first see inside one. “If you’re lucky, you can witness new bees emerging from their cells,” Allinson-Chorabik says.

There are honey tastings, too. “We do these smaller seasonal harvests and get to experience a variety of different flavours,” Allinson-Chorabik says. Honey from sunflower pollen, for example, will have a different flavour profile than honey from the pollen of apple orchard blooms.

Not only does Ontario Honey Creations sell raw and creamed honey (along with soaps, candles and bee pollen), it also has a mead house and tasting room on site. This year, Ontario Honey Creations is producing session mead (in cans), including infusions with such fruit as locally grown rhubarb.

“With the pandemic and the impact it’s had, [people] really want to get out and experience life again,” Allinson-Chorabik says.

“There’s a greater focus on the food system because of that and people wanting to know where their food is coming from.”

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Sarah Allinson-Chorabik and Peter Chorabik run Ontario Honey Creations in Mulmur, west of Barrie, where visitors can see hives up close and participate in honey tastings.CENTRAL COUNTIES TOURISM

Circling Hawk Farm and Ridge Meadery in Richmond Hill also offer honeybee experiences and beekeeping 101 workshops, while Pioneer Brand Honey in Schomberg allows guests to see its bees in action and taste some of its 30-plus varieties of honey.

There are other ways to appreciate bees as well, such as simply enjoying wild landscapes that support pollinators.

The City of Brampton has officially been designated a Bee City (a municipality that has committed to taking action to protect pollinators).

“The city has for a number of years been running programs that directly support pollinators and their habitats, [such as] park naturalization programs,” says Zoe Milligan, an environmental project specialist with the city.

Brampton currently maintains 17 dedicated pollinator beds and 706 perennial beds that support pollinators. Since 2002, the city’s naturalization program has transformed more than 220 hectares of land with native seed mixes, shrubs and trees that provide food and habitat for pollinators. “For visitors I would recommend enjoying the trails through our natural heritage system,” Milligan says.

Along the Etobicoke Creek Trail and Esker Lake Trail, for example, the city has naturalized meadows that pollinators rely on. Other areas to experience include the Claireville Conservation Area, Eldorado Park and Andrew McCandless Park. In future, the city is looking to offer more hands-on activities such as pollinator plantings.

Where there’s bee tourism, there’s also flower tourism, whether it’s enjoying a naturalized conservation area or having an on-the-farm experience such as following a sunflower trail or making your own lavender bouquet.

At The Sunflower Farm in Beaverton, guests can wander a sunflower-shaped trail among 20 acres of blooming sunflowers. “I wasn’t trying to reinvent the wheel,” says owner and farmer Ursula Kressibucher, who grows sunflowers for bird seed. But there were no sunflower trails in her area so, in 2020, she decided to open up the farm to the public.

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Visitors to The Sunflower Farm in Beaverton can wander along a sunflower-shaped trail among 20 acres of these cheery blooms.KAILEY JANE PHOTOGRAPHY

“The past year I created a trail through the field that’s the shape of a sunflower,” Kressibucher says. “I’d say we’re Canada’s only sunflower-shaped sunflower trail.”

The sunflower’s bloom period is only about two weeks, so she’s planted two fields that bloom at two different times, but “it’s a short and sweet season for sunflowers. … If you wait too long they’re gone.”

This year she’ll also offer unique experiences such as ‘blooms and brews’ and outdoor yoga, as well as build-your-own bouquet workshops. In her ‘secret’ garden, Kressibucher grows about 20 varieties of specialty sunflowers, including ones that are white, fire red and strawberry blonde.

Southern Ontario is also home to several lavender farms, many of which offer on-the-farm experiences. Lavender-Blu in Port Perry, for example, is a hobby farm and lavender artisan studio with more than 3,000 lavender plants growing on the property (as well as eight bee hives, in co-operation with Hiveshare), where visitors can partake in outdoor yoga and ‘cultivating calm’ workshops, as well as garden visits.

The Warkworth Lilac Festival in Warkworth features 80 unique varieties of lilacs along the Millennium Lilac Trail. This year’s event kicks off on May 28 and 29 and will include a double white variety in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.

The Giving Place Honey & Lavender Farm in East Gwillimbury offers lavender markets, picnic lunch Fridays, high tea, yoga in the fields and lavender wreath workshops. Country Cut Flowers in Newmarket and White’s Creek Flower Farm in Beaverton both offer cut-your-own flowers experiences. In May, specialty tulips and delphiniums are in bloom, followed by peonies in June.

There’s no shortage of ways to connect with nature this summer, from pollen to pollinators, and experience farm life.

“In my childhood I didn’t know anything other than growing up on a farm,” Kressibucher says. “For people who’ve never experienced that, it’s such a joy.”

Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

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