News reports of the loss of honey bee colonies over the past four years have stirred interest in keeping bees. Across America hobbyist beekeepers are placing bee hives in urban and suburban backyards and city rooftops. Some want to help reverse the decline in honey bee colonies. Others want to ensure a supply of bees for their home gardens to grow some of their own food. For many, beekeeping provides an opportunity to look into the complicated life of these intriguing social insects. A recent article in USA Today, http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2011-06-27-city-restrictions-beekeeping-fights_n.htm, points to the fact that honey bees are misunderstood, unappreciated, or feared by some. Instead of welcoming honey bees and beekeepers, some municipalities are attempting to keep bees out by passing restrictive ordinances. Those who request banning bees from a community do not realize the unexpected consequences of their actions. While ordinances may ban beekeeping, the laws do nothing to control bees and other stinging insects. Insects simply don’t abide by written laws. Removing managed honey bee colonies from a residential community opens an environmental niche for less desirable insects to fill.
Increasing the number of managed bee hives across the country offers benefits. First, more pollinators become available. Many of the new beekeepers are informed stewards of the environment. As they study honey bee biology and the craft of beekeeping, they insist upon using measures that protect the bees and our natural resources. Experienced beekeepers also serve communities by answering numerous requests from the public and governmental agencies for handling honey bee swarm removal and stinging insect emergencies. Beekeepers try to prevent problems with the public by adhering to “good neighbor” practices. They limit exposure of the bees to others by carefully placing hives so that bees won’t fly across areas frequented by people, provide the bees water, and work the bees when conditions are favorable and people are not present. In today’s photo colorful crepe myrtle blossoms attract honey bees to suburban landscapes. Honey bees need our protection.