Becoming an Urban Beekeeper

Becoming an Urban Beekeeper

The rise in use of commercial pesticides has had numerous harmful side effects.

Destruction of the common honeybee is one of those side effects with far reaching consequences we haven’t even begun to understand.

The worldwide bee population is dying off.

No bees means no pollination.

No pollination means no plants (including food crops).                                                                   

No food crops means we starve.

It’s pretty simple.

However, all is not completely lost.  Many people, including people in large cities like New York, are doing their part to save the bee population.

Welcome the Urban Beekeeper.

What is Urban Beekeeping?

Urban beekeeping is exactly what it sounds like.  Keeping beehives in the city.  Those little white boxes we usually see far back in fields in the country are appearing in subdivisions, on rooftops, and even in back yards around the globe.

In London, between 1999 and 2012, the number of beekeepers in the city increased by 220%. 

Getting Started

If you’re interested in beekeeping in an urban area, check for local organizations for information on getting started.  If you are keeping bees in your yard, the local government will probably require you to have a fenced yard.  Most cities have regulations governing where you can keep bees, how many hives you can have, whether or not you need specific certifications or approval to sell the honey locally, etc.

Talk to those same organizations about exactly what you need to start a hive.  It’s not as simple as just putting up a box and expecting bees to move in.

Because one of the factors killing off our honeybees is a virus, you are better off using new equipment for your hives than buying used.  Just to be on the safe side.

You will need:

●          Wooden Boxes (the hives) – paint them white to keep them cooler in the summer

●          Cinder blocks or wood to build a base to keep your hives off the ground

●          Frames with beeswax foundation

●          A bee suit, helmet, gloves and boot bands

●          A smoker

●          Hive tool, frame grips and a bee brush

●          Last, but not least, bees

Start small with two hives and build from there.  A good start for two hives is 3 pounds of bees for each hive and you can order them by mail.  The best time to start your hives is in spring after the last hard freeze so order your bees then.

Installing the Bees and Harvesting Your Honey

Get in touch with your local beekeeping organization for assistance with installing your bees and harvesting your honey.  Most beekeepers are thrilled to share their knowledge and expertise with “newbies”.  They will be more than happy to come out and help you set up your hives.

During the first year, it is best to leave most of the honey for your bees.  Harvest only about 3 or 4 frames late in the summer. That will allow the hives to settle in and prepare for the winter.  After that first year, your hives will be established enough to allow you to harvest regularly and still support the hive.

If you are looking for a new hobby that is relatively inexpensive to start and doesn’t require a lot of effort, urban beekeeping may be just what you’re looking for.  To quote Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture Magazine, beekeeping takes “more effort than your cat, but less effort than your dog”.  By raising healthy bees, you will be taking a step toward saving the planet, too.