Buzzworthy Success: Bee Well Project Blooms within Bria Communities

senior man and woman harvesting honey
senior women painting bee hives red

In August 2023, a group of seniors from The Waterford seniors community put on their protective netting hats gathered around the hives in a brand-new apiary and raised a glass to their bees. Their toast ended the pilot year of the Bee Well Project, but in actuality, it turned out to be just the beginning.

The Bee Well Project is a creative and unique partnership between local beekeeper Julia Common, Southlands Tsawwassen, and Bria Communities. It benefits pollinators, seniors, and the entire South Delta community. The Southlands Tsawwassen apiary offers Julia a safe and bountiful haven to care for her bees. Julia, a senior herself, offers interactive educational programs to the residents of Bria Communities, connecting them to the land in an engaging and empowering way. The bees, in turn, pollinate everything from South Delta pumpkins to Snow Farms organic apples and produce rich golden honey, which is harvested and shared with the seniors participating in the Bee Well Project.

In 2023, as the Southlands Apiary was under construction, special care was taken to create a space ideal for pollinators and accessible to seniors. “The team at Southlands Tsawwassen have gone out of their way to ensure Julia’s bees have everything they need to flourish year over year,” notes Tanya Snow, Director of Bria Communities. “They also went above and beyond to ensure the seniors in our communities can safely enjoy them up close. They’ve created access for our buses, adding gravel pathways that work for walkers and wheelchairs, and even installed natural stone benches.”

While the Southlands Tsawwassen team worked on finishing up the Apiary, Julia worked with residents of The Waterford, hosting in-house hive painting parties, beeswax candle rolling workshops, Mason Bee hive installations, honey harvesting and, of course, lots of honey-tasting opportunities. It was a hit!

“I was surprised to see how open they were to exploring the lives of honeybees and pollinators,” says Julia. “They shared their life experiences with me and we have developed mutual trust. So, on that day we first visited the Apiary, it was wonderful to see their joy, comfort and confidence in being up close and personal with the bees.”

The Bee Well Project’s success prompted Tanya Snow to apply to the federal government for the New Horizons For Seniors Program Grant, which funds projects that enhance the lives of seniors and their communities. 

“One of our goals was to enhance the environmental and intellectual wellness of seniors,” says Tanya. “We want to sponsor more hives and Southlands Apiary to provide the opportunity for more seniors to experience the benefits of connecting with their environment and pollinators.” The grant money will be used to expand the Bee Well Project and give access to more than 500 seniors who make their homes in our retirement communities.

For Julia, this means more activity in the Apiary and taking the program she developed for The Waterford to three other residences. “Each residence is very different, but there is a lot of interest everywhere. Our sessions involve lively question and answer times, and I always encounter one or two former beekeepers in the crowd who keep me on my toes.” 

As the year progresses, residents from all four Bria Communities will become well-educated on the importance of all pollinators. They’ll have the opportunity to visit the hives they sponsor at the Southlands Apiary, harvest their honey with Julia’s help, and enjoy the nectar of their labour.

“I think many of us underestimate the importance of being rooted to our land,” says Tanya Snow. “But it’s an essential part of our overall health and wellness. The Bee Well Project creates an incredible opportunity for seniors and pollinators to thrive together.”