Urban Bee Keeping

Urban Bee Keeping

Part of Ep. 2006 Urban Gardening

Contrary to popular belief, honeybees don’t need a rural environment to thrive.  In fact the bees at Firefly Ridge in Wauwatosa live directly under the interstate!

Premiere date: Jul 01, 2012

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley Ryan:

In case you didn't notice, we are standing right next to the Interstate. It doesn't seem to bother the bees so I hope it doesn't bother you either. We are in Wauwatosa and I am talking with Harris Byers of Milwaukee County Cooperative Extension. We're talking about beekeeping. You actually teach people how to raise bees.

 

Harris Byers:

Part of what I teach them is actually how to raise bees in an urban setting, in the city.

 

Shelley Ryan:

So, in a city, by an Interstate. Most gardeners, I hope, know the value but let's just go over it again. Why it's good to raise bees in gardens.

 

Harris Byers:

Especially why raise bees in the city. You know, Shelley, with this upswing in urban agriculture the production of consumable produce in the city gardeners quickly realized that there was an overall lack of pollinators.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Our native pollinators.

 

Harris Byers:

Due to habitat loss, construction of buildings pavement, and just general habitat loss, there's a real hole in this ecosystem. In order to repair that, bringing honey bees back in and making that part of an urban agriculture and urban food production really provides a huge benefit to those that are growing their own produce in the city.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Fruit, trees, flowers, food, you name it they all benefit from having these honey bees.

 

Harris Byers:

Absolutely. What we've seen in our own community gardens that the UW Extension operates is massive production of anything in the cucumber family: melons, squashes, or strawberries, they produce so heavily when they're pollinated.

 

Shelley Ryan:

So good reason, I bet there's an edible reason, too.

 

Harris Byers:

Shelley, that's my favorite reason! That's the consumption of honey. Raw honey is so delicious. It's by and far better than anything you'll every taste coming from a grocery store. Raw honey is truly, truly, truly wonderful.

 

Shelley Ryan:

It's rumored to have a health benefit, as well.

 

Harris Byers:

There's certainly a lot of anecdotal evidence. There's some medical literature that does seem to suggest that consuming raw honey from your local area your local eco?system will give you some resistance to some of the allergies that people commonly face in the spring and the fall.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Allergies seem to be getting worse for a lot of people. I may just have to look into this myself. You have a program. It starts in the winter and it's open to the general public.

 

Harris Byers:

The UW Extension in Milwaukee County, we offer a program that's aimed to try to train beginning beekeepers who are interested in keeping honey bees in the city. We start in February and March with a series of weekend lectures to give our students a theoretical knowledge of the biology and ecology of the honey bee. Unlike cows and chickens honey bees have not been domesticated, but yet our agricultural system strongly depends on them. As beekeepers, the best thing we can do to become really excellent beekeepers is to learn as much as we can about their natural tendencies.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Then you go to hands? on when it's warmer outside.

 

Harris Byers:

For a select group of students we will bring them into our apiary and we'll provide them with hands?on training. In fact, as a benefit to us, is that they help us manage all these hives of honey bees that you see around you.

 

Shelley Ryan:

And still get that hands?on training.

 

Harris Byers:

That hands?on training.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Before I invest in signing up for the classes, I probably need to look in my own backyard, in my own area to see if I even qualify if I have the environment to make the bees happy.

 

Harris Byers:

Honey bees have evolved in millions of years to live in a variety of ecosystems, so that's generally not the restrictive feature. What I would recommend that you do first off is to check your local ordinances.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Oh, good point.

 

Harris Byers:

Ordinances are a patchwork across the state of Wisconsin as far as if beekeeping is allowed and to what restrictions might be placed on it. Check there first, before you become financially and really emotionally involved in becoming a beekeeper.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay, so I checked and my community says yes I can keep bees. I assume I need a big chunk of land.

 

Harris Byers:

Well, actually not really. In urban areas, especially across the ocean in Paris, for example honey bees are being kept on rooftops.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Really?

 

Harris Byers:

One of the classic examples is the Paris Opera House. Honey bees are being kept on top of the Paris Opera House. That honey is sold at quite a high premium just for the novelty of eating honey from the Opera House. Although in other municipalities in the United States there are a lot of rooftop beekeeping. New York, Boston, look to our neighbor to the south, Chicago. Keeping honey bees on rooftops is really a great place to keep them in urban areas.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Obviously, they don't mind noise either. I don't have to worry about sun or shade they just need a spot. Let's talk then about what they need.

 

Harris Byers:

Really, honey bees, like I said have evolved to live in a variety of landscapes. But in particular, in beekeeping the style of hive that we use nowadays is extremely simple. It's made out of wood. There's no electronic components to it. It's a series of frames and a place for them to live. The lower two boxes are brood chambers and they are where the queen lives. This is where the eggs are laid and the brood gets reared. This is really the life of the hive. Above that are a series of boxes that stack on top of each other. People may be familiar with those. This is where honey is stored for our consumption.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Oh, goody! These are pretty much the same design. I mean, this isn't a new design.

 

Harris Byers:

It's a universal design, and really it evolves off of work that was completed in the late 1800s. It hasn't changed. As beekeepers, we often try to play with different configurations and things over time but we have always come back to this standard box type design that people are most familiar with.

 

Shelley Ryan:

So, if I've got a roof or a small backyard as long as the ordinance says yes, let's go for it.

 

Harris Byers:

Absolutely.

 

Shelley Ryan:

We will have information about your classes on our website so if people get hooked they can find out more information.

 

Harris Byers:

Thank you for coming out to be with us, Shelley.

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