United Beekeepers of Alberta
History in a Nutshell

Alberta’s beekeeping began with the first European settlers. They weren’t very successful. Alberta’s prairies and parklands offered little forage for honey bees in the nineteenth century. It wasn’t until the 1920s that beekeepers could make more than thirty pounds per hive. By then, dandelions, clover, alfalfa, and sweet clover had made their way into the province. Soon, legendary crops were being produced. To share ideas and improve beekeeping standards, beekeepers in Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge formed the first beekeeping organizations in Alberta in the early 1930s.

Other beekeepers soon arrived from Quebec, Ontario, and California because Alberta was seen as a honey bee paradise at the time. There was newly-broken bush in the north where fireweed and clover grew wild while further south to the US border, vast acreages of alfalfa and sweet clover yielded profusely. Rapeseed (replaced by canola in the 1970s) added to the attraction. Most bee operations were small by today's standards and almost all beekeepers were seasonal or sideline.

Nevertheless, by 1965, there were 100,000 colonies in Alberta and lots of honey to market. Beekeepers recognized common issues – exporting honey, finding employees, managing price volatility – that might be handled best with organized efforts. One solution was the creation of the Alberta Beekeepers Association (ABA), formed in the mid-twentieth century by beekeepers throughout the province.

The ABA served all of Alberta's beekeepers, large and small. Hobbyists and sideliners were important members, supporting and providing the volunteers required to maintain the Association. For example, back in the 1970s, the ABA was managed from a kitchen in Ellerslie by the wife of a sideline beekeeper who served as secretary.

The organisation grew with the support of hobby, sideline, and commercial beekeepers. In 2004, the Alberta Beekeeping Commission was formed with the expectation that it could offer greater benefits to beekeepers. Once the Commission was established, the Association and the Commission merged, with the new Commission taking over the office and assets of the Alberta Beekeeping Association, which was dissolved.

A decade later, the Alberta Marketing Council changed the Commission structure, significantly reducing the role of small-scale beekeepers by removing a provision for beekeepers with fewer than 100 colonies to obtain full participation and eliminating the hobbyist board position.

Left without a united voice, and without participation in the Commission, local Alberta beekeeping organisations (which represent the majority of Alberta beekeepers) have now formed a new province-wide organization with a mandate to represent and become a voice for all registered Alberta beekeepers in the spirit of the original Alberta Beekeepers Association. The United Beekeepers of Alberta Council (UBAC) is the result.

The UBAC is a work in progress. The eventual structure and details are still under open discussion, but it is expected that the Council will provide a voice for every Alberta beekeeper, including commercial, sideline, and hobbyist.

A strong beekeeping community is made up of many different people with diverse experiences. The UBAC welcomes commercial beekeepers, urban beekeepers, queen breeders, top-bar keepers, honey packers, native bee enthusiasts, canola pollinators, sideline beekeepers, large-scale honey producers, equipment suppliers, and everyone with an interest in bees of all sorts.

Whoever you happen to be, and whether you are a third-generation commercial beekeeper with thousands of hives or a new beekeeper with one hive, the UBAC is interested in your views. Please support this new venture.