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A Guide to Urban Beekeeping

By now, you’ve probably heard that bees are in crisis. Their numbers are dwindling and some fear that there will be a total collapse in their population. In response to this issue, urban beekeepers have been taking charge, doing their best to repopulate and spread the word. Sound like something you’d be into? Read on for the complete guide to urban beekeeping.

The Who
Individuals and groups of like-minded folks who all share the common interest of ensuring that bees continue to thrive, despite their dwindling numbers. These beekeepers tend to come together in community gardens and designated spaces that have been set up with hives and all the other good stuff required to keep bees happy and well. Sound like something you’d like to do? Great! Just consider that there are plenty of rules and regulations in place when it comes to urban beekeeping. In major cities like Toronto, New York, and London, for instance, there are strict parameters meant to keep beekeeping safe for all. Some laws require that hives be kept a certain distance from property lines and that all hives must be registered. This helps keep issues like overcrowded apiaries, swarming problems, and feral colonies in check.

The Where
Most urban beekeepers prefer to keep their hives away from home. Having too many bees too close to neighbors is an invitation for problems, especially if the people next door take issue with an increased number of bees hanging out around their yard. There are important factors to take into consideration such as water sources (bees get thirsty, too), forage areas, flight paths (you need to make sure that your bees aren’t flying into people) as well as threats to the bees safety and well-being. Luckily, community spaces like gardens and parks are often willing to work with beekeepers to create hospitable environments that can be mutually beneficial. In some cities, hotels and restaurants offer up space and use the fruit of the bee’s labor (read: honey) in their dishes. It doesn’t get much more local than that.

The What
There’s a bit more to urban beekeeping than acquiring some bees and waiting for them to flourish. First and foremost, you need a hive. All of those bees have to live somewhere and you need to do some research to ensure that your hives are conducive to happy bees. Online resources offer plenty of opportunity to familiarize yourself with the housing options out there and if you feel as if though you need a bit more hands on experience, your local urban beekeeping group should be happy to give you a tour of their facilities. You’ll also want to invest in the appropriate clothing that is necessary when handling bees, the tools that you’ll need to keep things organized, extraction equipment, as well as any medications or remedies that might be needed if your little friends were to take ill. It may sound overwhelming but beekeepers are a friendly bunch, usually delighted to share their knowledge, and you’ll find that you’ll pick up tricks of the trade as you go along.

The Why
People decide to get into urban beekeeping for a myriad of reasons. Some are worried about the beepocalypse, others want to connect to nature despite their urban surroundings, and there’s also the question of wanting to produce your own honey. Beekeeping is also a truly enjoyable experience that requires dedication and a constant willingness to learn, which appeals to many who relish the challenge and enjoy the gratification of seeing their colonies thrive.

The Result
Thanks to the increase in urban beekeepers, cities around the world have been reaping the benefits that these tiny, fuzzy little creatures bring with them. Economically speaking, the increase in local honey and bee products is always welcome, especially in areas where residents are concerned about sustainability and the provenance of their food. Environmentally, bees are usually a good thing. They encourage gardens and greenery by pollinating plants and their presence is usually welcomed, considering the fact that they’re for the most part quite docile.

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