Kristine Lofgren

The Popularity of Urban Beekeeping May Actually Be Killing Bees

by , 08/14/13

Urban bee keeping, Urban bee hives, Urban bees, bee keeping, bee hives, bee death, honey bee deaths, colon collapse, colony collapse disorder, honey bee colony collapse, bee colony collapse, urban hive death, urban bee hive deaths, urban bee hive food, urban bee hive disease, bee hive food, bee hive colonies, honey bee food, honey bee populations, honey bee disease, The Biologist, The Biologist magazinePhoto via Shutterstock

It’s a case of too much of a good thing: A surge in the number of hives in some cities might actually be causing harm to the local honey bee population. According to an article in The Biologist, inexperienced bee keepers, who may not have a clear grasp on the delicate balance between bees and the environment, can create a situation ripe for the spread of contagious diseases and not enough food. And it could actually harm bee populations in the long run.

Urban bee keeping, Urban bee hives, Urban bees, bee keeping, bee hives, bee death, honey bee deaths, colon collapse, colony collapse disorder, honey bee colony collapse, bee colony collapse, urban hive death, urban bee hive deaths, urban bee hive food, urban bee hive disease, bee hive food, bee hive colonies, honey bee food, honey bee populations, honey bee disease, The Biologist, The Biologist magazine

Massive bee losses across the planet have raised concerns about maintaining healthy population of bees — after all, without bees there is no food. At the same time, urban beekeeping is more popular than ever. But the trend may actually be doing harm to bee populations.

If there is a huge concentration of bee colonies in one area, as there often is in urban environments with lots of hives, there isn’t enough food to keep all of the insects alive. Crowding can also encourage the spread of parasites or contagious diseases. It’s important to note, however, that bee losses have been attributed to everything from cell phones to pesticide use, so while urban hives may not be helping the situation, they certainly aren’t causing it.

+ The Biologist

via environment 360

images from Studio Beerhorst and Hashoo Foundation

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2 Comments

  1. mroberge September 24, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    This response to the preceding article will be looking to question the actual ways of urban beekeeping in order to stimulate answers so we may build a viable future, for us and for bees. But first, let’s recap the recent events to help us size the context.

    About a decade ago, the worldwide beekeeping community started to notice a dramatic declining of it’s bee population. Through the years, from 2005 to 2011, about 40% of the bees were lost to different causes: parasites, diseases, winters, GMO and, mostly, the mysterious colony collapse disorder (refenrenced as the CCD), according to Greenpeace. While most of the beekeepers and ecologists attribute the hecatomb to different giants of agriculture chemical products (as the Bayer Group and Sygenta), scientists across the planet are still confused on the causes of the CCD. Most of them agree to say that a mix of factors would be most likely responsible for the mysterious disease.

    Medias across the globe took advantage of the situation, presenting in a sensationalist way a world where bees will soon disapear, citing Albert Einstein mistakenly, using the famous quote (that Alice Calaprice placed in the section “Probably not by Einstein” in the reference book “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein”) “If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live”. Yes, the situation was alarming and needed people to take action, but in an intelligent way that could provide a sustainable future for bees in urban areas.

    The exhaustive media coverage resulted in a world population response. In some big cities, like London, urban beekeeping has become a trend, to a point that some areas have too much bees for the amount of flowers. If building more hives is not the solution to this problem, how can we solve the decline of bees throughout the world?

    Education seems to be the word, especially about bees. If a large part of the public is aware that the population of these little insect is declining, most of the community still fear them. We can often hear people confusing wasps for bees, as I experienced when interrogating common citizens from the city of Montreal. “Bees attacking my plate when I was eating”, or “bees are always around garbage cans” are words that come back often if you ask people what they think of the bee. These are just a few example that show a global misunderstanding and reasonless fear that most people have, and some websites on bees, like honeylove.org, try to explain to its viewers that bees are not an aggressive insect. Still, these websites are only visited by those who find interest in bees, and it’s a small part of the targeted audience.

    So how can global fear of bees be reversed? Is it possible our society interact with bees in a way that both sides take profit of the situation? Étienne, an urban beekeeper here in Montreal, seems to think so, as he witnesses the demand for beehives growing fast, as long as the interest of people for the discipline. He and his partners offer a service of education through workshops that’s growing in popularity, but still remains marginal events. A larger part of the population needs to be informed of the current advantages that bee populations can bring to a society, but how?

    Promotion and support can go through any kind of habits to change, starting with the things we eat. Organisms like Greenpeace promote different courses of action, like shopping local as much as possible, buying from organic and ecological farms, and even buy raw local honey. All of these propositions are thought to consume pesticides and GMO less food, in order to put pressure on agro-giants companies. Finding a way to encourage even more local agriculture could be a part of the solution.

    Updating and revitalizing bee products, like honey, wax, propolis, etc, also seem to be inevitable when you think of promoting the cause of bees. Designers all around the globe started to explore the subject in the latest years, like Michael Leung, from Hong Kong, who started a trend of urban beekeeping in his home city. He created brand new packaging, as long as a brand indentity, that is much more actual than most of the honey industrial beekeepers propose. His campaign to revitalize beekeeping to reach to younger constumers, who considered bee products to be often outdated and kitch, seems to be working, since the project he’s started seems to have moved into a real trend in Hong Kong. He was able raise awareness is a cool, fashion way so even younger generations would know of beekeeping and it’s advantages.

    These are just a few examples of ways to raise awareness and be a part of the solution of the global bee decline, without necessarily installing beehives all over the city. Good and intelligent beekeeping is made through an exhaustive education, and new urban beekeepers must be sure to practice their hobby in a sustainable way. Other solutions are also available, such as encouraging local agriculture, promoting a new image of bee products as long as informing people through workshops and activities. But this is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to solutions, and that is where designers can help to build a bright future, for bees and for us.

  2. Dan Rezaiekhaligh August 15, 2013 at 7:57 am

    So its bee keepers, gmo corn, pesticides, cell phone towers, parasites and probably something else? I just wonder when they will zero in on how to save the bees there seems to be no shortage of causes for their loss though.

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