Some would say that Marianne and Matt Gee bought some bad roommates when, in 2009, they discovered 50,000 honeybees living in the wall of their new Ottawa home. That’s what several pest control operations thought when they called, wondering what they could do. They all offered to exterminate the colony, but the new homeowners had heard that the bee population was in trouble and decided to take matters into their own hands. Putting on a rain jacket, climbing up a ladder, and taking apart a wall to reach the bees, Matt Gee had no idea he was beginning a career in beekeeping.
The couples’ idea to cut out the honeycomb, put it in a cabinet, and then relocate the bees to the woods is a sign that there’s a growing awareness of honeybees’ plight. The population is dwindling, and the Gees have dedicated their business, Gees Bees, to furthering the public’s understanding of the complicated insect. They manage about 200 hives, more than half of them in the backyards of Ottawa residents who’ve opted to host a colony. The Gees visit on a biweekly basis to suit up with the hosts, do the dirty work, and teach them how to take care of the hive. At the end of each season, the hosts have the opportunity to buy the hive they’ve learned to care for and become beekeepers themselves.