Yesterday I tuned into a fascinating webinar called “Urban Beekeeping: Ins and Outs; Dos and Don’ts.” The webinar was moderated by Shane Gebauer of Brushy Mountain Bee Farm and featured Toni Burnham (http://citybees.blogspot.com), Cameo Wood, Cindy Bee, and Kim Flottum (http://BeeCulture.com). Although the material was designed for new urban beekeepers, the issues raised were compelling and on point. I thought they did a great job of alerting new beekeepers to potential problems.
Although it is easy to overlook, the diversity of forage available to urban bees is quite extensive. The panel mentioned parks, river basins, tree-lined streets, green roofs, flower boxes, community gardens, and eco-lawns (lawns with plenty of weeds) as possible sources of nectar and pollen. Other places that come to mind are utility easements, hedges, median strips, and nursery stock.
A two-way street
The panel emphasized the importance of keeping your bees safe from the public—and vice-versa—and discussed prudent placement of hives and ways to reduce their visibility. They concurred that an urban beekeeper must stay alert to signs of swarming and act to prevent it whenever possible. To that advice I would add that urban bee hives should be kept away from playgrounds, bikeways, trails, and crosswalks—or any place where a person could be startled into sustaining an injury.
Fecal trails were also discussed. This is one of my favorite topics because, according to my husband, bees are like birds. They don’t just drop a load whenever they please but seek shiny objects as targets. Shiny objects include newly washed cars, shimmering swimming pools, snow white lawn furniture, and freshly painted fences. Whatever the case, if you’ve never kept bees you will be amazed. As one of the panelists mentioned, you can sometimes change the flight pattern by re-orienting the hive entrance.
Should it be a secret?
Quite a bit of time was spent discussing whether you should tell your neighbors that you’re going to keep bees, and if so, when. This is a topic that combines psychological warfare with legal and ethical dilemmas. I’m not going to touch this one, but I recommend listening to the recording of the webinar if you’re interested. It will be posted on the Brushy Mountain Bee Farm site and is free to anyone. Enjoy.