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Urban honeybee program a sweet deal for Vancouver

Scott Gordon, an inspector for the ministry of Agriculture, inspect Dr. Ron Lin's hives in Pitt Meadows, British Columbia on June 4, 2013.

Ben Nelms/The Globe and Mail

Beekeepers and a developer have teamed up on a sweet idea that they hope will add buzz to the streets of Vancouver.

Milross Gardens is a 540-square-metre lot in the shadow of the Georgia Viaduct near Chinatown that's owned by the developer Amacon. Under a program announced Monday, Amacon and the non-profit group Hives for Humanity announced the garden is also the new home for two honeybee hives, two queen bees and 40,000 to 60,000 insects.

Hives for Humanity spokeswoman Sarah Common said pollinators such as bees are responsible for two-thirds of everything people eat, but their populations are suffering because of habitat loss and agricultural practices that rely on chemicals.

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"We're hoping to demonstrate innovative uses of space in the city where we can create pollinator sanctuaries in the middle of all of the traffic and the hubbub," she said. In fact, 40 of the garden's 130 raised-planting boxes grow plants that are essential to pollinators. Yet, there are all sorts of other useful "nooks and crannies" in the city, she added, and they range in size from less than a square metre to the size of the garden.

Amacon spokeswoman Melissa Howey said the new program means the gardens will also offer free, Monday night workshops, so people can learn about bees, gardening and urban agriculture.

There's a plan that's even bigger than Milross Gardens, Ms. Common said, and her group hopes to create corridors throughout the city so bees can move about and connect with other bees.

To accomplish its goal, Hives for Humanity partners with other non-profits, community gardens, businesses, developers, schools, residents with backyards and even prisons, she said. Residents who agree to house a couple of hives in their backyards get some of the honey produced, she said, adding the rest is sold to support its programs.

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