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Adventures in backyard beekeeping

Peter Hardie checks on the beehives in his back yard on Bridge Street in Sackville. Hardie began beekeeping 40 years ago.
Peter Hardie checks on the beehives in his back yard on Bridge Street in Sackville. Hardie began beekeeping 40 years ago.

SACKVILLE, N.B. – Peter Hardie’s interest and passion for bees started 40 years ago.

At 19 years old, he started with a small hive in the backyard of an old farmhouse he lived in during his university years.

Starting out, he paid a visit to a local beekeeper to learn the basics. As he followed his teacher and listened, he felt something on his ankle.

“What do I do if there is a bee on me?” he asked the veteran beekeeper.

“Just stay still and ignore it, it will leave you alone.”

“Okay.”

Then Hardie noticed there was a bee crawling up the inside of his pant leg.

“Hey, so what do I do if it’s, like, going up my pant leg?”

In addition to producing honey, bees also play a critical role in pollinating plants.

The bee was now on his thigh and moving closer to a place where he definitely did not want to be stung.

“You can take your pants off!”

Hardie rushed to free the bee from his pants.

The bee got away then, but today, years later, that hasn’t always been the story.

“I’ve been stung more than 100 times, but it’s always my fault,” he explained.

Hardie and his wife, Kathleen Cooper, have 50 beehives spread out around Sackville, including two in their backyard.

The couple is willing to teach anyone interested in getting started on their first backyard beehive. They also give presentations at elementary schools and senior colleges.

Beekeeping is so broad, said Hardie, there is always more to learn, even after 40 years.

“The more I know, the less I know.”

In addition to the obvious benefit of having your own supply of honey, Hardie said beekeeping is therapeutic and good for the environment, adding that although it can be a bit expensive to start, at the end of the day it’s worth it.

Emily Acorn, a first year journalism student at Holland College, who is currently doing on-the-job training with the Tribune-Post, recently spent an afternoon talking with local backyard beekeeper Peter Hardie. Above, Acorn gets some hands-on experience.

“Our bees help out the whole community with pollination.”

In recent years, Hardie and his wife were sent overseas through a national program for Canadian volunteers, CUSO.

They spent two years teaching farmers in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. Initially, they were going to spend two years in the Soloman Islands, but due to the successful experience, they were asked to go to Papua New Guinea for four more months.

The husband-wife duo worked as a team, with Hardie being named CUSO Atlantic’s volunteer of the year for his efforts towards improving global relations.

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