Does Urban Beekeeping Harm Wild Bees?
The German city of Dresden is an example of how city beekeeping has grown in popularity in recent years. The head of Dresden Beekeeping Association, Tino Lorz, said that their membership has grown from around 80 people ten years ago to about 300 members now.
There are advantages for both bees and people to having the honeybees right in the city.
Such a wide variety of pollen in city parks, gardens and cemeteries is hard to find in the countryside nowadays where monoculture has taken over many farms and fields. Also, city bees have adapted to the sounds of the city, so noisy cars and other vehicles don’t bother them.
The honey that is shared by honeybees with their humans in downtown Dresden is very high quality and everybody knows it is pure. In contrast, honey that is brought into the grocery stores from anywhere and everywhere can be mixtures of honeys from many places, and in some cases may even be diluted. An added advantage to city honey is that it can help alleviate local seasonal allergies since it is made from the pollen right in that same environment.
Rico Heinzig is the beekeeper at the Kulturpalast, where he takes care of 360,000 Buckfast bees in six hives. They bottle 400 jars of quality Palace honey every year.
New beekeeper Diana Schubarth started caring for her Carnica bees in two hives just over a year ago. She is very proud that she just harvested her first honey crop at her allotment garden in Dresden-Plauen. She says there are so many plants in the area that it provides a paradise for her bees.
This unrelated 4:56-minute video by BBC Earth Unplugged about Urban Beekeeping is from the UK:
Canadians, on the other hand, worry that urban beekeeping is bad for wild bees. Postdoctoral researcher Gail MacInnis from Concordia University has been studying how managed beehives affect over 170 wild bee species in the Montreal area, where 2,000 honeybee hives have been set up since 2013. She noted that wild bees are solitary, and some are only able to collect nectar and pollen for 2-3 weeks every year, so they are facing fierce competition now for their foods when you consider that a beehive can have 60,000 to 100,000 bees in it. She is still researching how many beehives Montreal can tolerate before actually harming the wild bee population and how many flowers it takes to feed them.
Yet most people and business that have added beehives to their gardens or rooftops mean well, and believe they are helping to fight the decline of bees, and boosting pollination and food security in cities.
There is no question that urban beekeeping benefits the community in some ways, like quality local honey production and by providing a source of income for many people. More people also learn about bees in an urban setting.
The City of Toronto falls under restrictions imposed by the province of Ontario that make urban beekeeping illegal in most of the city. In addition, they embrace pollinator-friendly landscaping, with native plants that are quite pest resistant as well as pollinator gardens. They also offer grants to community groups to plant such gardens around the city.
We should all support wild bees in any way we can. Planting lots of organic pesticide-free nectar and pollen-rich native flowers and allowing our gardens to look slightly “neglected” since that provides wild bees with the shelter they need are two easy ways to help wild bees.
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