The New York Times published a story relating the rapid increase in the number of individuals who are choosing to keep honey bees at their homes in the cities. While beekeepers have always been welcomed in some cities, other communities passed ordinances to limit or prohibit beekeeping. The story, which tells of beekeepers’ efforts to change restrictive laws, is located at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/09/garden/09Bees.html?_r=1&src=me&ref=homepage. Some of those communities that attempted to restrict beekeeping did so in an effort to prevent Africanized honey bees from entering. Laws limiting beekeeping activities may actually have the opposite effect. Fortunately, the Africanized honey bees have not proven to be the threat that some predicted. All beekeeping organizations recommend beekeepers adopt good neighbor policies involving beekeeping practices designed to lessen unpleasant encounters between honey bees and the public: Bee hives should not be placed close to property lines. Tall fences or shrubs encourage the bees to fly high above the heads of neighbors. Hives placed in pastures with livestock need to be fenced to keep animals away from the hives. Beekeepers should provide the bees a source of water. Don’t place too many hives in residential areas, usually three or four for lots less than one acre. Bees should be worked in a manner to prevent disturbing bees when neighbors are present: Open the hives in the daytime when bees are foraging. If a colony is defensive, re-queen it. Reduce robbing by not working bees during a dearth, and limit the time that honey is exposed to flying bees.
Having managed honey bee colonies benefits cities: They provide pollination for food and ornamental plants, establish a trained group of beekeepers who can handle bee emergencies, and prevent the creation of environmental niches for more dangerous stinging insects. I think that maybe the greatest benefit involves developing environmentally aware citizens. Peace Bee Farm maintains three bee yards in public areas in the city of Memphis. Today’s photo shows some of our urban bee hives facing an evergreen barrier.--Richard