Air bee-n-bee generating some buzz for Hillcrest Mall in Richmond Hill

20,000 honeybees move into the rooftop hives of our area’s biggest shopping centre


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Beehives from urban apiary company Alvéole, as installed on the Hillcrest rooftop

© Alvéole

Thousands of bees are saying “Honey, I’m home!” to their new digs at Hillcrest Mall in Richmond Hill, though visitors in the parking lot may never even realize it. Installed on the rooftop of the Richmond Hill shopping centre are two beehives, courtesy of the Montreal-based urban apiary company Alvéole. 

Keeping tens of thousands of bees on a rooftop of a public mall might not seem like a good idea, but the Hillcrest team embraced the opportunity after being approached by Alvéole. 

“People, in 2017, while they’re interested in what shopping centres have to offer, I think they’re looking for a deeper authenticity behind the brand,” said Lisa Resnic, the marketing director of Hillcrest Mall. “This is our way of really contributing to our community in Richmond Hill and to the bees and the environment. It felt like a really good fit.” 

In recent years, the mall has thrown its focus to environmentally friendly business practices, including doubling its waste diversion rate between 2016 and 2017, planting native perennials around the mall and installing a rainwater cistern to capture and store rainwater for irrigation. Urban beekeeping, which helps support a bee population that has seen a dramatic decline locally and globally in the last few years, seemed like a fun new initiative for Hillcrest. 

“I was nervous about them just like everybody else,” said Resnic. “But there is something incredibly calming about them.” 

Each hive contained about 10,000 bees at the time of installation on June 1. By the height of summer, there should be about 50,000 honey bees on the roof and traveling up to 5km to pollinate area flowers. 

Despite their stingers, which they can only use once before they die, honey bees are remarkably docile characters. When Resnic and her staff go to the rooftops to change their water and check on the bees, they eschew any beekeeping gear and handle the hives with their bare hands, as was instructed by the team at Alvéole, who check on the hives every two weeks to change hive frames and make sure the buzzers have enough space. 

At the end of the season, the Hillcrest staff will donate the honey to a local organization.

“To be able to give Richmond Hill honey to the community, that’s pretty cool,” said Resnic.

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Jessica Wei is an associate editor for Post City. She has lived and worked as a journalist in Montreal, Hong Kong and, now, Toronto. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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