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Hive Mind: Urban Beekeeping Bug Stings Cities Worldwide

  • Written by  Marsea Truan
  • Video
Beekeeping is catching on in urban centers across the U.S. and around the world. Beekeeping is catching on in urban centers across the U.S. and around the world.


Bees around the world are disappearing at an alarming rate. While scientists still cannot agree on what is causing the phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder (CCD), the drastic rise in bee deaths since 2006 is a major problem for us all. Hydroponic growers don’t require bees to pollinate their indoor crops, but without healthy hives, the global food supply is in serious danger. Luckily, increasing numbers of people are getting involved in amateur beekeeping, also known as apiculture.

This noble art has been practiced since the ancient Egyptians kept man-made hives made of pottery. In ancient Greece, Aristotle wrote at length about the lives of bees. Today, urban apiculture is a growing trend with the potential to make a huge impact on our future.

Australians have yet to witness the carnage of CCD on their own shores, but they are not waiting for their own outbreak to begin a culture of respecting, protecting and raising honeybees. Friends and fellow bee enthusiasts Mat Lumalasi and Vanessa Kwiatkowski founded the group Melbourne City Rooftop Honey (MCRH), which now looks after 50 hives in 18 different suburbs of the city—a total of about 2.4 million bees. Individual homeowners, as well as hotels, restaurants and other businesses, host one or more hives.

Some statistics say recreational beekeeping makes up about 40 percent of honey production in the U.S.

One Melbourne business that houses a colony of honeybees is the famous Embrasse restaurant, whose owner and head chef, Nic Poelaert, has nothing but positive reviews for his rooftop hive. “They are amazing creatures,” he said. “When Mat and Vanessa come and collect the honey, there’s always a new story.”

By participating in the MCRH, folks like Poelaert receive aid and instruction from Lumalasi and Kwiatkowski, who keep a small amount of the honey produced and give the rest to the hive host. In this case, Embrasse uses the fresh honey in many of its award-winning recipes.

Melbourne is not alone in having a growing culture of apiculture. Some statistics say recreational beekeeping makes up about 40 percent of honey production in the U.S. Even America’s most famous urban metropolis, New York City, recently joined the list of apiculture-friendly cities following a debate over whether keeping colonies of bees in close proximity to millions of people would present a public safety risk. Regulators ruled that the bees posed no threat, and the dam opened to a flood of new amateur beekeepers. Currently there are around 40 registered hives within the city limits, but experts in the field surmise that there are probably hundreds more unregistered hives. The parks department even installed two hives atop the roof of its Central Park headquarters.

So what if you want to get into beekeeping? Many of us with outdoor gardens would benefit from adding a hive or two to our ecosystems. First, check your local laws to make sure amateur beekeeping is allowed. Once you are in the clear, look into local apiculture organizations (many cities have them) to get all the info you need about how to obtain and care for your bees. As long as your hive is happy and healthy, the bees will be docile, industrious little workers who will provide you with an endless supply of fresh honey, which apiculture entrepreneurs can sell via local grocers and farmers markets. And given how important bees are to our continued survival, you and your garden may just be helping to save the world in the process.

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Urban beekeeping on New York City rooftops.
Last modified on Tuesday, 16 October 2012 18:51

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