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Urban Beekeeping


Urban beekeeping has been all the buzz, lately.  And for as many people that keep bees, there are that many reasons WHY people keep bees.

One of the most important reasons to keep bees is for pollination.  Bee pollination is needed for the production of an estimated one-third of the food crops grown in developed countries. When it comes to fruit, the number of bees visiting a plant affects the size, uniformity and amount of fruit it produces. Bee pollination also has an impact on other foods we eat, such as meat, since the animals we consume often eat plants pollinated by bees.

It’s common knowledge that the honey bee produces honey, but did you know that they also provide us with wax, pollen, royal jelly, propolis and venom? These by-products have different uses but are all considered beneficial to our health. "Apitherapy" means the use of honeybee products for medicinal purposes.

Urban beekeeping is essential as the commercial beekeepers have sustained huge losses all over the country year after year. As urban beekeepers we can practices sans medications and chemicals. We can provide diversity-rich habits as well as encourage those around us to reduce and or eliminate the use of pesticides. Beekeeping is a very civic hobby!  But beyond that, it’s a lot of fun, challenging and rewarding.

If you’ve ever thought about keeping bees in your backyard (or community garden space), join Marygael at the Gardens for her three class series, Beekeeping Essentials.  The Gardens will be offering the class twice due to its popularity – Feb 9, 16 & 23 and March 15, 22 & 29.  Be sure to register early!

Guest Blogger: Marygael Meister


Matt, The Earth is a plant based biosphere. Nothing happens if not for plants; clouds, medicine, clothing, shelter, food and oxygen just to name a few. The highest grade of crude oil began as sea weed! Quite often, pollination is limited in peoples’ minds to food. We, not the insects or plants, have created boundaries. The urban area is in need of strong healthy perennial plants and trees to absorb the high amount of CO2, filter sunlight and during the dark side of photosynthesis give all living creatures, one of the essential components to life, oxygen. Bees don’t generally set annual plants but they do aid the aforementioned trees and perennial plants. When a bee visits a fruit tree there will be more fruit produced and cross pollination which will create a healthier and stronger specimen. Honey Bees are found at the primary consumer level in the topic dynamic. Bees are the only creature that doesn’t maim or kill to exist. Honey bees are vegans, their protein source is pollen and their carbohydrate source is nectar. They are defensive in nature so they either die off naturally or are a food source for other insects, primarily the wasps, wasps are the custodians of insect world, or birds, but the latter is not common as the bee will attempt to sting the assailant.
Rachel Murray
While honeybees are not native species, we are heavily dependent upon their populations for our food supply. Those populations are under threat from Colony Collapse Disorder AND urbanization and development pressures. I think the argument is that urban beekeeping helps to support the broader bee population of the nation (and world?) by contributing to genetic diversity, as well as helping to protect local foodsheds by maintaining bees' geographic range. Keep bees in the city because we need bees everywhere!
Best Beekeeping
It is one of the real positives out of the crisis facing commercial beekeeping that everyone is so much more aware of how important bees are as a part of the ecosystem. And people who would never have thought of keeping bees before are now considering getting their first hive. And it really is such a rewarding hobby on so many levels. Good luck with your classes!
Matt Pizzuti
I'm all for making urban environments as much of a complete ecosystem as possible. Intuitively, I think it's just healthier for reasons including but not limited to mental health. (Not many people are nurtured by a world of right angles.) But I'm curious - what are the discernible benefits of bringing pollinators to the city? I guess some folks have a vegetable garden or fruit tree, but in general we aren't growing food crops in Capitol Hill or Washington Park. Meanwhile, many gardeners go to great lengths to PREVENT their garden plants from going to seed. Do honeybees compete with any specific pests or are they an important food source for anything?
Matt Pizzuti
Mary, I understand the value of plants in the urban environment - but we aren't getting them through pollination that requires bees; we're typically purchasing them from the nursery and then propagating them by division. And our gardens take their place in the biosphere, sequestering carbon and cleaning air, regardless of how the plants were pollinated. Honeybees are NOT native species, I should add. I love having bees around and I don't think there's any harm in making urban environments agriculturally productive if we can get honey and wax from city beehives - but I'm just trying to discern whether there is a real benefit or if urban beekeeping is just a sentimental kind of appreciation for bees.
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