Enhancing the Local Ecosystem with Beehives at the Courtright Complex

By: Corporate Communications
May 20, 2021


Our Courtright Complex has long had a focus on the environment and their local ecosystem. The site has been hard at work with its own re-naturalization efforts such as: planting milkweed, the natural food source of the declining monarch population; building and installing purple martin houses around the community; and hiring a local high school to build bat-houses. Ashleigh Shortridge, senior procurement specialist at Coutright is most excited about the 10 healthy beehives kept on site.

“This is our 3rd season with the bees,” says Ashleigh. “Dan Heffernan, a local beekeeper, was aware of our re-naturalization efforts and knew the bees would aid in making this a success, so he reached out to us to start a bee program at site. He also teaches classes in schools and to the general public to educate people on the importance of bees.”

Web of Ecodependence

Dan once worked at Courtright when it was still a part of Terra Industries and then started Heff’s Hives after he retired in response to his daughter who was very concerned with helping the bees. According to his website, he started with two hives and then it quickly grew in excess of two million bees in his backyard.

His focus has been on Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a phenomenon in which worker bees abruptly disappear from a beehive. Scientists around the world have been trying to determine the cause since it was identified in 2006. Many causes have been proposed: climate change, environmental changes, herbicides, very powerful pesticides, foreign species, fungus and certain beekeeping practices.

Dan says, “I realized very quickly that the honeybees are so much more than pollinators or honey producers. They are a vital, integral part of the vast, complex living organism known as our Earth. These terrifically resourceful & vulnerable creatures are so important to our ecosystem.”

Ashleigh says the Courtright site came to the same realization: “Locally our bees help pollinate our re-naturalization efforts. They also aid in pollinating the farm lands around our facility improving farmer’s yields. Bees are part of an ecosystem that brings us one out of every 3 bites of food.”

The 10 colonies on site contain over 1 million bees. Ashleigh says, “Our employees do not interact with the hives. They are maintained outside our fences in fields away from people. We let the experts like Dan take care of them.”

Sweet Rewards

These bees in turn pollinate the “10 acres of pollinator flowers and grasses outside our facility as well as being surrounded by farmlands,” according to Ashleigh. This includes the milkweed the site has planted which in turn feeds the monarch butterfly population.

As the site pays it forward, the employees are rewarded with some very sweet proceeds. Ashleigh says, “We do get honey from the hives! Last year each employee at Courtright was able to take home a jar of Ontario No. 1 Golden unpasteurized honey.”

Finally, Ashleigh is hopeful about the honeybees’ future. She says, “Pollinators need help, but we know how to help them! P2 scientists and research partners that have been studying pollinators for over three decades have been able to show that conservation techniques work. If everyone – home owners, local governments, national governments, and private industry – made the effort we could change the future for pollinators and secure our own. Consider planting a pollinator garden at home and leave those dandelions alone in the spring. They are the first foods for many pollinators coming out of hibernation.”