How many bees are there in Toronto?

There are over 350 species living within the GTA. These vary from large and quite scary looking Virginia Carpenter bees that nest, mostly alone, in wooden fences to tiny little sweat bees that live in small colonies in the dirt in your backyard or even in a flowerbox.

In 2011 there were 107 registered honeybee hives in Toronto and that number has surely increased in the intervening years. But while urban beekeeping is touted as the new trend, hives have been kept discretely in the city for many years. In the 1970s, beekeeping equipment was being sold out of downtown’s Little Italy / Little Portugal area, so bees have been kept in town at least a couple generations, perhaps longer. In his 1984 book "A Beeman's Journey", Canadian Historian-Naturalist Charles Sauriol recounts how he learned beekeeping in the 1930s from "Old Murph", who kept 50 colonies about 800 meters north of the Bloor Street viaduct in the lower Don Valley in East Toronto. 

While there are no municipal by-laws governing beekeeping in Toronto there is the Ontario Bees Act R.R.O. 1990 which requires that all hives in the province be registered with the provincial apiarist. This is done among other things to help control the spread of disease between colonies.

Sources: 

Urban Beekeeping Good for Cities and Bees. Ontario Bee Journal. July & August 2014.

Bees of Toronto. A Guide to Their Remarkable World. City of Toronto Biodiversity Series, 2016.

Sauriol, C., Sanders, E. B., & Bradshaw, J. (1984). A Beeman’s Journey (First Printing. ed.). Natural Heritage.

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