Friday, June 06, 2008

Fable of the Bees

When bees are outlawed... dwellers across the country are rapidly discovering the appeal of urban beekeeping. Large cities like Chicago, Seattle, Boston, Dallas and San Francisco are even promoting beekeeping for pollination health, to keep city vegetation green and lush.

In New York City, a growing population of beekeepers is raising the insects in community gardens and on building roofs, even though it's technically illegal to keep bees there. Lawmakers plan to re-examine the city law that classifies honeybees as "wild and ferocious animals" along with lions, ferrets and alligators.

....Keeping bees in urban areas typically requires considerations that beekeepers in rural or suburban areas don't always have to worry about - like water. If you don't keep enough water for your bees, they'll often go to neighbors' pools and bird baths, according to veteran beekeepers.

Donald Burger, who teaches a course on backyard beekeeping in Houston, said beekeepers also need to consider the flight path of their bees - best kept above head level so the bees aren't flying straight into where people walk.

Certain varieties of honeybees are more docile than others, making them better for areas where they may encounter a lot of people, Burger said. He prefers a breed called buckfasts, while Barclay has kept both Italian and Carniolan honeybees.

....Residents with gardens typically welcome bees, and many beekeepers say they've found their neighbors are very interested in their bees.

"They're sort of like fish but better. Watching them calms you," said Rob Hicks, who keeps four hives in Chicago. "It's a fun way to spend time, and I think it might even have some effect on blood pressure," he joked.

There's also the honey. Hicks said that like many beekeepers, he's usually able to sweet-talk neighbors into acceptance by keeping them well-supplied with honey.

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