Alberta Avenue Community League was buzzing with success on Aug. 28 during their Honey Harvest event.
The event gave community members the opportunity to harvest local, Alberta Ave honey from the hives in the community garden, and participants got their hands sticky straining honeycomb through cheesecloth.
“We got the beehives right around the time of COVID,” says Colten Bishop, the vice president at the league, “[and] we haven’t been able to [hold the event] in previous years just because of size restrictions with gatherings.”
“So this year, there’s no restrictions. We still want to be safe, but we can get people together, start doing some cool events like this again,” adds Bishop.
Amelia Altmiks, the league’s beekeeper, received a grant from the City of Edmonton for the beehive project in 2019, and she decided to ask the league if they would be interested in having a hive in their garden.
“It was the first place I thought about putting the hives,” says Altmiks, “because I grew up around 118 [Avenue], I went to high school at Eastglen, and I just love the area.”
This year, the league has two beehives, and there are plans to continue adding more.
Altmiks is also a volunteer beekeeper at MacEwan University. This is her sixth season beekeeping. She says, “I love being able to share the bees with people on campus… and I wanted to create another space like that, so I opened up the space at Alberta Ave.”
Over the summer, Altmiks has had community residents and board members come help out with the beehives, and she checks in on the hives about once a week to make sure the bees are healthy and happy.
At the event, participants got the chance to learn more about the bees, received a little tour of the beehives, and strained honeycombs so they could take home a sample of Alberta Avenue honey to taste for themselves.
“You know, it’s a learning opportunity and it’s just really cool,” says Bishop. “You don’t get to do this very often.”
“This is fun! It’s like preschool but [with] environmental responsibility,” says Shanna Orvis, who attended the event. “[I had] so many bees in my yard this year, so I was wondering, where’s the beehive? And here I am. I feel like Pooh Bear, Winnie the Pooh, digging in the honey.”
“It’s pretty neat that we’re in the city and still doing something like this,” adds Kyra, another participant.
“It’s awesome, it’s sticky, it’s fun, it’s entertaining, it’s delicious,” says Odile, another participant of the event.
This year, Altmiks pulled four frames from the beehives to harvest, which yielded about 20 pounds of honey, and some of that honey was for sale at Alberta Avenue’s 100-year celebration.
“It’s a cool little tie in,” says Bishop. “We’re celebrating a century of memories and good times. Now you get to taste a little bit of our community league as well.”
Altmiks adds that it’s exciting to see what flavours the flowers in the community garden yield and to be able to taste the beautiful parts of Alberta Avenue.
The honeycomb that wasn’t strained through cheesecloth went into the honey extractor at the event — a large cylindrical tub that spins the honey until all the honey is released.
As part of the honey cleaning process, Altmiks rinsed the honey extractor out with whiskey to create honey-infused whiskey that the league can serve at their events.
In October, Altmiks is also hoping to host a few lip balm or salve workshops with leftover beeswax to teach community members how to make their own products.