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.