There are a number of reasons Americans are taking up beekeeping — a backyard colony can help your garden produce more fruits and veggies, harvesting your own honey cuts down on your grocery bill, and honey bees continue to be threatened by colony collapse disorder. Take your pick, and join the growing ranks of urban apiarists.
Keepers of rooftop and backyard hives extol the spiritual benefits of beekeeping, as well as the tasty ones.
"It is a joy to have them around and observe their intricate dance with life," says Ruby Blume, a Bay Area beekeeper who teaches courses on the subject at The Institute of Urban Homesteading in Oakland. "When the bees come out in spring there's a huge uplifting feeling in my spirit, and I know it's time to start gardening and engaging with the outside world again."
A single hive in an urban setting can produce as much as 60 pounds of honey, requires less management than a cat or dog, and has relatively low start-up costs, making it an appealing way for city folk to connect with their country roots. Here are a few things to consider when contemplating a hive of your very own:
You will need to do your research. "The more you know, the better beekeeper you'll be," advises Blume. There is a wealth of resources out there for aspiring beekeepers, from books to classes. Take several classes, says Blume, or find a mentor. Most cities have beekeepers associations full of enthusiasts who would be happy to help.
But first, investigate your city's laws — you don't want to unintentionally become a fugitive while pursuing your apiarist dreams.