'Honey bees, whales, and puffins, oh my'

By Mark Squibb | Vol. 12 No. 11 (May 30, 2019)

The City of St. John’s hosted their annual Tourism Awards presentation at City Hall Tuesday, May 14, recognizing individuals and businesses that they say contribute to the tourism sector in the province.

The winner of the Discovery Award is a familiar business in the Goulds that introduced a new twist last season.

Paul and Brenda Dinn started beekeeping with just a couple of beehives seven years ago in their own backyard in the Goulds.

It was a decision that started with a field full of flowers.

“A visitor here saw that we have all this fireweed. We have a lot of fireweed flowers behind the house, and he noticed them,” explained Paul.

“I noticed it then too. I said, ‘yeah, it’s everywhere. And I started worrying that it’s one of theses invasive species.’ So, I said, ‘how am I going to control it?’”

Paul and Brenda Dinn.  Submitted photo

Paul and Brenda Dinn.

Submitted photo

While researching how he might get rid of the invasive flower, he discovered that it was very sought after around the world by beekeepers because of its excellent nectar.

The rest, as they say, is history.

The couple purchased bees from The Newfoundland Bee Company in Pasadena and multiplied their own stock over their years.

All of their bees are local.

“It’s not worth the risk of chancing bringing in a disease,” said Dinn on the decision not to import any of their bees.

The couple practise low impact beekeeping, where the hives are spread out over a distance versus clustered together in large groups, as Dinn said is common on other bee farms.

“Basically, the bees have more of a life. It’s more difficult for us, there’s more work, because now we have to manage them by going to the different areas and harvesting honey from different areas. But in our opinion the bees are healthier. What happens when you have bees altogether, they’re going into each other hives accidentally. And we don’t want that.”

Last season, the couple introduced the Honey Bee Hike, a guided tour through the Honeybee Pollinator and Wildflower Reserve, which culminates in tasting some fresh honey scooped straight out of the hive.

“You can come see the bees and taste the honey right out of the beehive,” summarized Dinn.

If you sign up for the hike, Dinn explained that you’ll first get an introduction to bee keeping, before donning a bee suit and gloves for a leisurely stroll through the woods to see how the bees are getting their nectar, and cap the hike off by opening up a beehive (which, Dinn said, people love to take pictures of) and tasting some honey directly from the beehive.

The hike runs from June until mid-October, and Dinn said that both local people and visitors from afar have been enjoying the hike,

Dinn told the Irish Loop Post that companies have even taken to using the tour as a team building exercise, because the bees are some of nature’s finest examples of teamwork.

“They work together for the benefit of the beehive. It’s a great example of teamwork.”

Also awarded by the City of St. John’s was a company now in it’s thirtieth fifth year which helps guests explore the province— including the Southern Shore and Irish Loop.

Ann Simmons, Operations Manager of Wildland Tours, was awarded the Signal Award for significant contribution to the cruise ship industry.

“It’s very humbling,” said Simmons.

“It’s a real honour of course to be recognised for something that you love to do anyway. It makes winning an award for it all that more special.”

“I work with a fabulous group of individuals, both inside and outside of the company, and they certainly make me better at what I do. It’s a team effort, and me winning that award, I can’t take all the recognition.”

Wildland Tours added the UNESCO World Heritage Site Mistaken Point this year to the itinerary to the May Magic on the Avalon trip, which also includes a trek along the Southern Shore coastline and stops at Cape Broyle, Ferryland, Cape Race and the Cape St. Mary’s bird sanctuary.

“May Magic is typically all about the province coming alive for the season, because that’s what happens in May. And the Irish Loop is absolutely beautiful,” said Simmons.

“We’re hoping that this tour really takes off, and we’re hoping that Mistaken Point is going to be the draw.

Mistaken Point, recognised as a World Heritage site in 2016, boasts fossils that scientists date as 560-580 million years old.

Simmons told the Irish Loop Post that the Southern Shore is always a hit with visitors.

“They always come back and say they enjoy the smaller communities, and that the folks in them are so friendly,” she explained.

“A lot of these peoples come from larger city centres and they don’t always see this small community living. And that includes the architecture of theses communities, the older, wooden homes, and the history and the culture of the fishing.

“The Irish Loop is a gem of the province.”

Simmons noted that the cruise ship MS Fram, owned by Hurtigruten, was scheduled to stop in Ferryland over the May 24 weekend; the first time she is aware that a cruise ship has ever stopped in Ferryland.

“And talk about community spirit. The whole community of Ferryland came together at last minute,” said Simmons, who said that the community knew the ship would be stopping by, but that details of the visit were not confirmed until the last moment.

“They knew it was coming. But we never really had any details or clarification if it was a confirmed visit. Sadly, it got cancelled.”

“The holiday Monday the whole community came together,” said Simmons.

Unfortunately, the ship was unable to make the stop due to mechanical issues.

“It wasn’t until we had to call these people and cancel that we realised how disappointed the town was,” said Simmons, who noted that all of Ferryland were eager to welcome the guests.

‘The whole town was so excited. And that’s what you get when you go to theses small communities. You get that community spirit.”

On a brighter note, she said that the ship is scheduled to be back on Sept. 27 .

Posted on June 12, 2019 .