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Sometimes we get asked if honeybees collaborating with artists to create artworks like those exhibited in Between Us safe for honeybees. We’re glad you ask; it’s something we considered deeply before embarking on this project.


The Art Gallery of Regina worked with small-scale, professional beekeepers who care for honeybees, a managed bee species imported from Europe and whose relationship with humans extends many hundreds of years in the past. These beekeepers don't exploit their bees but exist in partnership with honeybees: ensuring that bees have food, water, shelter, sustainable hive dynamics and protection from predators and disease. In particular, European honeybees are cultivated for the abundance of honey they produce – far more than the hive needs to sustain its population throughout the winter. Beekeepers harvest the surplus. 


To avoid overtaxing honeybees and to compensate beekeepers for the loss of saleable honey, the AGR paid beekeepers to reserve hives for art use. These bees went about their daily labour of building wax honeycomb, filling it with honey, and appending artists' offerings with their creative activity. 


According to beekeeper Louise Yates, "By placing articles into the hives at the same time that the regular hive work was being done, the bees would not have experienced anything unusual." The apiaries the AGR worked with are low-density and do not practice apiculture that is stressful and harmful to bees, such as renting and transporting bees great distances to pollinate different crops.


At the very start of the Between Us project, the AGR hosted a training session for artists and beekeepers with an apiculture specialist. The training focused on safety for humans interacting with honeybees and ensuring that bees were not harmed by the materials and processes used to create artworks. For instance, we recommended limiting the number of times a beehive was opened to once per month to avoid disturbing the bees inside and fuzzy materials, such as fur and wool, were prohibited as their texture may cause bees to believe that a predator has invaded their hive, causing the bees to swarm, a behaviour which endangers individual bees and their colony. "Beekeepers," observes Andrew Hamilton of Hamilton Apiaries, "don't want to lose bees or put the colonies' survival at risk."


Beekeepers had the right to decline an artist's material or contact if they believed it could detrimentally affect their bees. A code of ethics ( guided participants in Between Us and specified that no harm be done to animals, including honeybees. "In the case of participants that are unable to consent (such as animals, insects, etc.), the project must engage with experts and/or owners and/or keepers to ensure that no harm is done to the participant and to ensure adequate understanding of participant needs."


Artists, beekeepers and bees all benefitted from the guidance of mentor Aganetha Dyck, who has co-created her artwork with honeybees for over 20 years. "Throughout the Between Us project, Aganetha Dyck was adamant that the bees be treated with respect," says beekeeper Yates. "And, it is self-evident that the honeybees collaborating on this project were thriving because unhappy, unhealthy bees would not have produced wax or built honeycomb. Only healthy, happy bees have the capacity to do that."


Both domesticated honeybees and wild bees are vulnerable to climate change, habitat loss, declining biodiversity of food sources and toxins from pollution and pesticides. However, beekeepers ensure that their colonies have adequate food and water resources, protection from predators and disease and facilitate the group's survival over the winter. Wild bees are often more vulnerable than commercially managed birds and bees. "The greatest challenge to wild bees is the loss of habitat and varying food sources," says Hamilton. Activities to curtail and protect wild bees include clearing trees, mowing long grass, planting large areas with a single crop, using pesticides, and paving land. 


Yates suggests creating a habitat for birds and bees, "planting native plants and flowers that bloom from spring through fall, creating nesting areas, providing water sources, birds and bees arrive and thrive."


We urge you to visit these links to learn more about wild and Indigenous bees:


We urge you to visit these links to learn more about wild and Indigenous bees:


Government of Sask


Royal Saskatchewan Museum Initiative - Regina is home to one of Canada's foremost experts native bee experts


U of S Veterinary College has a Polinator Health Research project to enhance the health of managed honey bees and wild native bees

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Individuals can help native bees - here are few links on how to do so:

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