Monday, April 23, 2018

History of the Calgary and District Beekeepers Association

Despite the best intentions, not all beekeepers keep detailed records of their colonies so it can hardly be expected that they would think to archive their association records. A recent investigation into the history of the Calgary and District Beekeepers Association suggests that the bee club is much older than originally thought.
During various periods over its eighty-eight-year history, however, it seems the association fell dormant, no doubt due to a lack of its essential hemolymph: leadership and volunteers.

The first record of the Calgary and District Beekeepers Association comes from the 1930 report of the recently-appointed provincial apiarist. The record mentions that the Calgary club was the newest of three local associations in the province, and that it put on a, “very creditable exhibit at the Calgary Horticultural Show.” The show was held at the Victoria Pavilion on Stampede Park, and the CDBA still exhibits there at Aggie Days and the Calgary Stampede.

The Western Farm Leader, March 3, 1944, Page 3

The next reference to the club, found in 1940s newspapers, comes in the form of wartime advertisements for package bees. Two-pound packages were selling for $5.25 and 3-pounders for $6.50. Club membership was $1.50. After the war, records in the Glenbow Archives show that the club organized field days with the provincial apiarist.

By the 1970s, we have the memory of veteran beekeepers to aid in piecing together the club’s history. Allen Dick recalls that Charlie Fograssy was the Calgary Association president at that time, and that he would drive a semi down to California to pick up packages for the whole area. Allen recalls purchasing $6 packages from Bill Rogers, who had a wax plant near Bearspaw, just west of the city.

In the early 1980s, former bee club president Jim Rogers (no relation to Bill) remembers meeting at Ed Samoil’s place and watching a German VHS tape on bees. As he put it, since not everyone knew German, they muted the tape and “buzzed amongst themselves.”

Another former president, Ron Miksha, recalled that when he moved to Calgary in 1991, he contacted Heather Clay of the Canadian Honey Council, to see about a local club. Clay responded that there was no active club, but by coincidence, Ed Samoil had recently contacted her, asking for help to “get the old club going again.” In 1992, the CDBA was resurrected with around twenty members. By 2010, the group had grown to around sixty paid memberships, when the global beekeeping epidemic swept through the Calgary area. Now the club has over 400 members.

There might have been some growing pains in the bee club’s forty-fold expansion over the last few decades, but the executive and volunteers of the Calgary and District Beekeeping Association rose to the task. The club still organizes group package purchases, exhibits at many venues in and around Calgary, connects the provincial apiculturalist to local beekeepers, and provides a community for beekeepers to share their experiences and mutual adoration of the honey bee.

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