That is what I get asked a lot.
Why? Why bees? Why bees in the city?
As I said in a previous post, part of why we got into this is that it has helped with my anxiety and panic attics.
Bees belong in the city as much as plants, trees and flowers. It is proven that honeybees do better in urban areas than rural areas because there is an abundance of nectar and pollen. In the outskirts, there is one crop that needs pollinating, and then it is done. In the city, there are apple trees, then spring flowers, then urban vegetable plants, then the late summer flowers, followed by the goldenrod and asters in the fall. It is a never-ending buffet for these amazing creatures.
Mostly, I am a gardener. I have huge, wonderful, carefully planted flowers and vegetables. I recognize that if it wasn’t for these little pollinators, I couldn’t have a tomato on my BLT. I wouldn’t enjoy the coneflower that are still blooming in my gardens. My gardens would be barren if it weren’t for the symbiotic relationship between the plant and the bees.
While my children attend public school, I look for ways to enrich their education outside of the classroom setting. This is a hands-on at-home science lab. They enjoy the hive as much as we do, watching the bees through their observation window, watching the hive inspections, watching them carrying the dead away, returning with pollen, coming and going. They look for the bees on plants in our yard and throughout the neighborhood. They understand the importance of bees, probably better than most adults!
Another reason is, plain and simply, I like food. Period. I like to eat. And, as it happens, a good portion of the foods that I like to eat require pollination. I like the occasional steak and a tall glass of cold milk (that alfalfa that Bessie eats needs to be pollinated). I like fresh fruits and vegetables. And don’t even get me started on coffee! They say that without pollinators, 1/3 of all foods would cease to exist. But that number is not completely accurate; there are many animals that feed off of pollinated crops, and if the crops don’t exist, neither does that chicken, lamb, cow, etc. Call me crazy, but I like to have actual grapes in my jelly… this helps me do my part to keep the foods natural.
I embrace sustainable living. I tease my husband a lot using a line from a Bob Marley song (“No Woman, No Cry”), that “my feet is my only carriage.” I walk to the library. Until the snow flies and after the snow has mostly melted, we bike to school and back each day (about a mile each day). I recycle. We heat using a pellet stove and a wood-burning stove. We aren’t necessarily completely green, but we do our part. And this is just part of it. It all goes together.
Even with the challenges of small-town living, I like my community. There are a lot of private gardens and city gardens… gardens in the parks and medians in the roadways. It is said that a two-mile radius sees a direct benefit from a bee hive. Direct benefit. My job, my hobby as a diligent, educated beekeeper is helping just about every resident in my community, whether they admit it or not, whether they agree with urban beekeeping or not. And that is an undeniable fact.
My 7 year old son suffers horribly from allergies, eczema, and allergy-induced and activity-induced asthma. He takes a pill every day year-round to help control his asthma and allergies. During the peak cold season (October-April), he takes a steroid inhaler twice a day. When his asthma acts up, he takes a second medication (his rescue inhaler). When his asthma is out of control, he takes an oral steroid. This has been since he was 2 years old. That is over 5 years of steroids pumped into his system. That scares me. There are studies showing the benefits of bee products for these very afflictions. Tell me, what would you rather give your child: a steroid, or a natural and proven remedy?
I do not keep bees for the honey. We own a BeePod brand top-bar hive. If I wanted a surplus of honey, this is not the kind we would have gotten (in fact, we just bought three bottles of honey yesterday!). This is “beekeeping for the bees.” This is designed for the bees to live as closely as they would in a natural, wild hive. Every bit of honey that our bees have produced is for them. They have a long winter ahead and need a good supply of honey for them to make it. If they ever made a surplus, yes we could enjoy a little, but we do not plan for that to happen.
I do not keep bees for what was referred to as “the cool factor.” If I wanted a cool hobby, perhaps I would restore a ’78 Corvette to show off or get some designer dog to strut around town in a cute little sweater and blinged-out collar. The last thing I think about when I am making a decision is whether or not something is “cool.”
Becoming beekeepers is not a decision we entered into lightly. We made sure it was OK with the City by contacting the City Administrator first. We researched it online. We took a month’s worth of classes. We read books. And then we got into it. It is an investment, not only of money but of time as well.
And, to quote my daughter, “That’s why!”