Beekeeping is one of the oldest human activities. It is dedicated to the upbringing and care of hives, to obtain various products, such as wax, honey, pollen and royal jelly.
“Given the absence of high concentrations of pesticides in cities, the public and private gardens of the cities may become a refuge for honey bees”
Today this activity also exists in urban areas. Unlike the production of honey as an agricultural activity which involves large productions and that depends on monocultures with high amounts of pesticides, urban beekeepers maintain small colonies in various places such as gardens, terraces, and roofs. These bees are exposed to a great diversity of flora in cities and benefit from lower amounts of pesticides. Researchers have discovered that bees kept in urban areas are healthier and produce better and more honey.
In addition to the normal amount of care a beehive requires, an urban beekeeper must take into account the number of plants with adequate flowers, pollen and, nectar to guarantee the source of food for the bees.
A good practice is to encourage the creation of community gardens in public spaces. Choose a variety of seeds ensuring the diversity of species, taking into account that a bee can move away from the hive approximately 5 kilometers, to feed.
It is a good practice to form or join local beekeeping communities that can help map out where hives are located, and give support and share advise among local beekeepers.
In Amsterdam, the organization wellbeeing.org, formed by urban beekeepers, is dedicated to educating by giving informative talks, courses and training new beekeepers. Among the activities they organize is diversity control and distribution of plants near the hives.
Vienna has a large number of hives in public spaces, there are numerous beehives located in important public buildings such as the Museum of Natural History, the Municipal Palace, the Schönbrunn Zoo among others.
In London and New York, this practice has increased rapidly with an accelerated increment of urban beekeepers using rooftops, terraces and any amount of empty space that can serve as keeping ground for their hives.
Tips for a successful urban beehive
- Know your neighbors, let them know that you are setting up a hive and take the appropriate considerations as not to bother your neighbors, like setting up a screen around the hive to force the bees to fly upwards.
- Join local beekeeping communities and get to know your local legislation regarding beekeeping.
- Select carefully the location of your hive, it has to be accessible and you should be able to open the hive once a week without bothering anyone.
- Choose a passive strain of bees.
- Find partners to share the activities and responsibilities of the hive.
Helping the homeless through beekeeping
Accueil Bonneau a Montreal group that offers a variety of services for homeless men, partnered with Montreal urban beekeeping company Alvéole, to teach them job skills through beekeeping, now has 60 hives in seven locations across the city.
The honey harvested from the hives is used to fund the program and it is sold all throughout the city.