Urban Beekeeping For The Rest of Us
Urban beekeeping is a rising trend among many who are interested in producing their own source of honey and interacting with honey bees. Unfortunately, there may be several reasons why a would-be backyard beekeeper is unable to start and maintain a honey beehive of their own. Challenges such city ordinances, pets and small children, liability issues, and unenthusiastic neighbors can all pull the plug on dreams of being a honey beekeeper.
Beekeeping By Supporting Bees
Honey bees need more than a hive to be successful. The good news is that you can be involved in some very important aspects of beekeeping, even if you can’t have the actual beehive on your property. Here are some alternative ideas for “keeping” bees, by supporting bees:
- Grow bee friendly plants – Having an abundant food supply is important to a healthy, productive bee hive. By planting bee friendly plants that bloom throughout the seasons, you’ll be giving bees a delicious, long lasting buffet. Excellent bee plants include cilantro, lavender, rosemary, borage, lamb’s ear, echium, bee balm, echinacea, and many others.
- Let the lawn grow - Caroline from London’s Buzzing recommends, “for those who prefer lawns to gardens… instead of cutting the lawn every so often, leave the grass to grow for one week longer or so – this will give clover the chance to flower and bees can get some much needed nectar”.
- Don’t use insecticides – Insecticide use can have unintended consequences for bees. To keep bees safe and healthy, use alternative organic methods to control garden pests.
- Supply clean water – A shallow basin of clean water can supply bees with much needed moisture, especially in hot weather or in a dry climate. Fill a basin with pebbles or stones to give the bees a safe place to land and sip without drowning.
- Involve the community – Caroline also suggests, “For the keen golfers among us, talk to management and ask that they use ‘bee-friendly’ products to keep their courses in pristine condition”.
- Get involved – Join a local beekeeping group and learn about urban beekeeping from the experts. Even if you can’t have your own hive, beekeeping groups are a great way to interact and build a relationship with bees and people. Depending on the group, you may able to participate in swarm rescues, harvest honey, or work with public education, among other activities. Every group is different, but getting involved is a great place to start.
- Other resources: Friends of the Earth has a great pamphlet on other ideas for supporting bees. Find it here.
Native and Solitary Bees
Honey bees often get the spotlight, but there are actually thousands of species of bees. Even if you can’t keep a honey beehive, you can host native and solitary bees, such as mason bees and leafcutter bees. Setting up a bee house is an alternative way to keep bees without the disadvantages of having a traditional beehive. You may not get honey, but you can still reap all the benefits of enhanced pollination and the interest of a garden buzzing with activity.
There are many ways to support urban beekeeping, but the most important step is to take action. By trying one of the steps above, you can start your journey towards keeping bees by supporting bees.
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