Have you seen the pictures and videos of the New York City hot dog stand taken over by bees last week? The corner of Broadway and West 43rd street was shut down after 30,000 of them swarmed the vendor’s umbrella. Honey with your hot dog, anyone?
Officials say it was an absconded hive, meaning the bees and their queen were looking for a new place to call home. The NYPD’s official beekeepers were brought in to control the situation; the bees were gathered into a hive box and transported to an apiary on Long Island.
The incident actually shed some light on an interesting backstory happening at the NYPD. Who knew the police had beekeepers? The department has actually employed them since 1990, but their workload has risen dramatically in recent years with the increased popularity of urban beekeeping.
It’s Happening Everywhere
Over the past several years, more and more people are taking up the hobby of urban beekeeping. It’s happening in cities across the US, including New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. In Canada, a Montreal-based company called Alveole actually rents hives out to cities and communities across Quebec. The idea is ‘urban greening’ and rallying citizens around bees.
All over the world, there are hives sitting on rooftops, in community gardens, and even in cemeteries. Whether it be a keen interest in homemade honey or the realization that pollinators are dying off at a rapid rate, urban beekeeping has become a real trend.
Depleting Bee Populations
It’s a good thing, too. A survey by the USDA found there were 8% fewer honey bee colonies in 2016 compared to the year earlier. The same study cites a report by NASS finding US honey production from producers with five or more colonies totaled 157 million pounds in 2015, down 12% from 2014.
The bee population has dropped so significantly in China that people are now taking over and hand-pollinating apples, pears, and other fruit trees. They have no choice; there just aren’t any natural pollinators around anymore.
Experts say their numbers are dropping around the world because of pesticide use, natural predators, and the removal of trees, shrubs, and hedges to make way for vast agricultural fields.
Just think: bees are responsible for pollinating a third of the world’s food crops. What a scary time we live in.
Pollinators in Paris
Luckily, there are people willing to take on the hobby of urban beekeeping to keep at least some hope for the natural pollinators alive. If you haven’t already, take a look at this beautifully-written and photographed story about urban beekeeping in Paris, written by the New York Times. It’s well worth the read.
On the rise for about a decade now, the article explains how more than 1,000 hives sit in community gardens and atop landmark buildings across the city, including the Opera Garnier, Place de la Concorde, the Notre-Dame Cathedral, and the Luxembourg Gardens, where beekeeping classes are a real hit.
There are hives on roofs belonging to restaurants and hotels so honey can be used in the kitchens and sold in the gift shops.
The mayor’s office in Paris allocates hives freely to community gardens and other venues. It describes bees as “the insect most essential for life on the planet”, and hopes the program will inspire more people to feel the same way. It’s made the environment as healthy as possible for the bees and their honey; pesticides have been banned in all public parks and gardens, cemeteries, and even on private home terraces and roofs.
If only all cities around the world were as dedicated to the cause. It seems like we’re getting there, though. And as Michael Lauriano, one of the NYPD’s beekeepers explained, there’s no reason to fear the honeybee
“They’re our friends,” he told a New York news organization. “They’re cute, they’re fuzzy and they want to be around us! They’re part of our society.”
Let’s make them feel welcome.
Featured image courtesy of NY Times. (respectfully)