Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Beekeeping in the City

     I have observed this particular native bee in my garden for the last few weeks.  I am hesitant to attempt an identification as in the past I have been corrected several times.  Often apparent experts have differed on their opinion.  With over 500 varieties of native bees to choose from in Vancouver I will leave that to the experts.  It looks kind of bumblish to me.  I'll stick to the two native bees that I'm sure of and that is the Blue Orchard Mason Bee, prevalent in the early spring and my personal favourite the Orange Rumped Bumble Bee which dominates the early summer in May and June.  You've got to admire a bee whose distinguishing feature is it's butt.  

The Orange Rumped Bumble Bee
     Beekeeping has become groovy of late and as a result there is a tremendous increase in the number of urban beekeepers.  I have observed that this has attracted a number of young adults, many of whom lose interest within a year or two.  I think that like any fad this attraction to beekeeping will pass but will raise the awareness of the general public to both the native and honey bee and the toxic conditions that we have created which threaten the existence of the bee and ultimately ourselves.
     Urban beekeeping is not new as evidenced by this article in the Titusville Herald in 1885.

Titusville Herald
January 19, 1885, Titusville, Pennsylvania

Beekeeping in Cities

About ten years ago we began to keep bees in
this city, at first merely as an experiment, and
to our astonishment we found that they did
almost was well as bees in the country. We
soon established an apiary of 40 hives on top
of the American Express Company's building
in Hudson street, and in 1878 took from a single
hive 123 pounds of choice comb honey. Our
success induced several persons in different
cities to repeat out experiment, and today there
are extensive apiaries in Chicago, St. Louis,
Cincinnati, Baltimore, and New Orleans.
In this city and in Brooklyn persons are keeping
bees, mostly on housetops, and are doing
remarkably well, there their report varying
from 75 to 130 pounds of honey to the hive;
not gathered from the sugar houses of gutters,
as some persons have asserted, but from flowers
in all the parks, gardens, and yards of the city,
the variety being so great that some are in
bloom every day during the summer season.
One of our city customers, a clergyman living
on twenty-fourth street reported that from one
of his roof hives he got 116 pounds of honey
last summer. We know of about 300 hives that
are kept in the city. Last year we extracted 600
pounds of choice honey while the ailanthus
trees were in bloom, at our apiary in Park Place,
this city. We do not keep our bees merely to
raise honey, but for increase of stock and queen
raising and only took the honey cut in order to
give place to the queen to deposit eggs.
Last October we shipped from this roof apiary
112 full stocks of bees to the island of Cuba,
where they have increased to 600 hives, and
have given an enormous quantity of honey.
We have just completed for this Cuban apiary
the largest honey extractor in the world, capable
of throwing out 6,000 pounds of honey daily;
the combs thus emptied of their honey are
returned to the bees and the process repeated
sometimes three or four times in a week during
the honey flow, and the combs thus used will
last for years. Such is the wide spread interest
in bees that a National Beekeepers' association
is maintained with minor associations in many
counties, and in all of the states. At the
Convention of these societies all matters affecting
this industry are discussed by the intelligent
and practical men. Apparatus for carrying on
the business are exhibited and criticized, and
statistics concerning the business are given. 


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