Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Urban Beekeeping

Mark Leech, of Tasmania, Australia, writing about urban beekeeping, questions how Peace Bee Farm arranges its hives at three locations in the city of Memphis. Answering Mark’s questions about our urban bee yards reveals some interesting details. We discover that the nectar sources, the timing of the nectar flow, and the amount of honey produced varies within the city. Our bee yard located in the Memphis Botanic Garden produces honey earlier than the other locations and produces several distinct flavors of honey through the year. The area contains specialty gardens and a great diversity of flowering plants and trees. The surrounding residential neighborhoods contain flower gardens and numerous chemically treated lawns. A nearby golf course offers limited forage of clover. Observation hives a few miles away at the Children’s Museum of Memphis produce some surplus honey, even though they are primarily managed for viewing the bees and honeycomb. The older neighborhoods surrounding the museum offer wildflower forage in untreated lawns, vacant lots, and along railroad lines.

Today’s picture shows the view from our bee yard located in the rear of the Hunt-Phelan Home facing historic Beale Street in downtown Memphis. Even though the downtown area is largely paved and covered with buildings, the bees have access to trees and forage areas along the Mississippi River. Urban areas provide surprising amounts for forage for honey bee hives. The amount of honey produced may vary according to the neighborhood. Weedy areas and gardens often produce significant amounts of nectar and pollen. Carefully tended lawns, golf courses, office parks, and paved parking lots, however, are virtual deserts to honey bees and native pollinators. The Hunt-Phelan Home, completed in 1832, was designed by Robert Mills, architect of the Washington Monument, the US Treasury building, and part of the White House. The home has hosted US presidents Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland, and Martin Van Buren. Confederate president Jefferson Davis was a frequent guest in the home. View Hunt-Phelan at

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