Urban beekeeping

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Main article: Beekeeping

Bees pollinating a neighbourhood dandelion.

Urban beekeeping is the practice of keeping bee colonies in urban areas. It may also be referred to as hobby beekeeping or backyard beekeeping.

Bees from city apiaries are said to be "healthier and more productive than their country cousins".[1] Their presence also provides cities with environmental and economic benefits. Bees pollinate a wide variety of plants, and the honey they produce is often sold to local restaurants and in local shops.[2] Most cities in North America at one time prohibited the keeping of bees, but in recent years beekeepers have had success in overturning bee bans. Many urban areas now regulate beekeeping.[2] While registering beehives is often mandatory, a high proportion of urban beekeepers fail to inform the city.

The popularity of urban beekeeping was growing rapidly c. 2012[2] perhaps due to its inclusion in the local food movement.[3] Between 1999 and 2012 London saw a 220% increase in beekeepers.[4] The number of urban beehives varies greatly from city to city and official counts may be inaccurate as hives are often not registered. As cities have limited greenspaces, the increasing popularity of the hobby may lead to lower honey yields as has been reported in London[5] and New York.[6] Another problem created by a surfeit of bees is swarming,[7] when a queen leaves an overcrowded colony with a retinue of workers to start her own.

Urban beekeeping cities[edit]

Bees producing honey in a hive.


Beekeeping in London has become increasingly popular: here the number of beekeepers rose 220% between 1999 and 2012[4] with other figures show a 200% increase between 2008 and 2013.[8] As of 2012, an estimated 3,200 apiaries exist in London, and while registration is mandatory, 75% were thought to operate without license.[5] The density of hives in London is much greater than in other areas of the UK, and this has led to concerns that city greenspace may not provide sufficient forage to sustain burgeoning bee populations.[8]

The UK government has aided the rise of keeping bees in cities by releasing a plastic beehive purpose-built for urban beekeeping. Called Beehaus, it is supported by quango Natural England.[9] Organizations supporting best practices for urban beekeeping in London include The London Beekeeper's Association,[10] which holds monthly meetings, provides mentoring to new beekeepers, and lends out beekeeping supplies.[11]

In London, bees are kept at department store Fortnum & Mason,[5] Lambeth Palace,[3] Buckingham Palace,[12] the London Stock Exchange,[5] the Natural History Museum,[3] the Tate Modern,[13] and at the Royal Lancaster Hotel,[5] etc. Hives once stood atop the Bank of England as well.[3]

New York[edit]

Until 2010, beekeeping was illegal in New York, but this had little effect on the many New Yorkers who built and maintained hives. Prior to being recognized by the city, urban beekeeping had become an established hobby, and a support network of organizations, blogs, and supply stores was already in place.[14] When the ban was lifted, only the non-aggressive Apis Mellifera species was allowed to be kept.[15] While registering beehives is required,[15] as of 2012 only half of the 400 bee colonies thought to be situated on New York rooftops had been reported to the city.[6]

Western honey bee

There are many organizations that support best practices for urban beekeeping in New York.

In New York, there are beehives at InterContinental The Barclay Hotel,[16] the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel,[16] the York Prep School,[6] the Brooklyn Navy Yard,[17] and the Bank of America Tower (New York City).[18]


Often regarded as a green and sustainable city, the City of Vancouver has recognized hobby beekeeping in residential areas by issuing guidelines and requiring hives to be registered.[19]

Organization supporting best practices for urban beekeeping in Vancouver include the Strathcona Beekeepers Association, a small band of beekeepers situated in Strathcona, Vancouver.[20] Nearby beekeepers can benefit from their expertise and also borrow equipment.[20]

In Vancouver, Vancouver Convention Centre[21] and Vancouver City Hall[22] are two places where bees are kept.


Montreal's beehives are regulated by a governmental agency called MAPAQ, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Quebec). This agency enforces a set of regulations surrounding the installation of a beehive in order to protect the health of colonies, but these rules are rarely as restrictive as to deter and discourage committed hobbyists.

The Westmount Library, a locus of learning and community, has a public honeybee hive on its roof that has live full inspections every two weeks during the summer months for kids, parents and the elderly. Montreal Botanical Gardens hosts honeybees as a part of their summer exposition, having introductory workshops with daily tour groups. As part of their 135th anniversary, Birks Group has installed three honeybee hives on the roof of their downtown headquarters in Montreal.[8]

In the summer of 2014, the Accueil Bonneau homeless facility launched a pilot project introducing their itinerant community to the art of beekeeping as a means of re-engaging them in a fulfilling and meaningful hobby.[23]

Most of the public beekeeping initiatives stem from companies offering beekeeping services that make it more accessible to urban dwellers, such as Alveole, Apiguru, or Miel Montreal. The move towards a comprehensive approach to producing local produce is part of why beekeeping is becoming more and more popular in this metropolitan city.[24]


In 2003, Richard M. Daley, then Mayor of Chicago, had two beehives with about 10,000 bees placed atop City Hall. Michael S. Thompson was put in charge of their care. Subsequently, the bee population thrived in the city, and by 2011 there were an estimated 160,000 bees calling Chicago home.[25]

In 2013, a ban on beekeeping was defeated in the Chicago suburb of Skokie. The village may regulate backyard beekeeping in the future.[26]


Johannesburg has over 6 million trees and on satellite pictures looks like a rain forest.[27] This environment is highly beneficial for urban beekeepers, whom often have higher honey yields per hive than other Highveld beekeepers. In South Africa anyone who handles bees must be registered with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (South Africa) as a beekeeper [28] and Johannesburg municipal laws apply to the keeping of bees in urban areas. The most popular hives in Johannesburg are the Langstroth hive, the plastic frame Afrihive and the Horizontal top-bar hive.

Other cities[edit]

Urban beekeeping exists in many major cities and has been reported in: Hong Kong,[29] Melbourne,[30] Sydney,[31] Turin,[32] Tokyo,[33] and Berlin[34] among others.


  1. ^ "Bees reared in cities 'healthier'". bbc.co.uk. BBC. 17 January 2006. Retrieved 10 February 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c Salkin, PE (2012). "Honey, it's all the Buzz: Regulating Neighborhood Beehives". Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review 55 (39). 
  3. ^ a b c d Barnett, Laura (4 May 2006). "Why London's beekeepers are a growing band". The Independent. Retrieved June 28, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b This statement is supported by multiple sources:
  5. ^ a b c d e Davenport, Justin (15 June 2012). "Celebrity beekeepers told to buzz off: Too many hives mean not enough food and falling honey yields". London Evening Standard. ES London Ltd. Retrieved June 28, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c Nessen, Stephen (June 25, 2012). "Two Years After Legalized Beekeeping, City May be Running Short on Forage". New York Public Radio. Retrieved June 28, 2012. 
  7. ^ BRIQUELET, KATE (June 3, 2012). "New York’s beekeeping craze bringing dangerous swarms". New York Post. Retrieved June 28, 2012. 
  8. ^ a b c "Rise in urban beekeeping may be bad for bees, scientists warn". cbc.ca. CBC. Aug 14, 2013. Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  9. ^ "Bringing the buzz back to gardens and rooftops". Natural England. 5 August 2009. Retrieved 11 April 2014. A new, contemporary beehive for the urban beekeeper, launched... by Omlet with support from Natural England, will make it easy for anyone... to help bees find a home in urban gardens. 
  10. ^ "What we do". lbka.org.uk. The London Beekeepers' Association. Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  11. ^ "Members". The London Beekeepers' Association. Retrieved 8 April 2014. 
  12. ^ Wilkes, David (26 August 2011). "The real queen bees at Buck House: A unique insight into Her Majesty's favourite honey - made in her own backyard". Mail Online. Daily Mail. Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  13. ^ Briggs, Hannah (27 September 2012). "Honey suffers after bad year for bees". bbc.co.uk. BBC. Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  14. ^ NAVARRO, MIREYA (March 14, 2010). "Bees in the City? New York May Let the Hives Come Out of Hiding". nytimes.com. The New York Times. Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  15. ^ a b Navarro, Mireya (March 16, 2010). "Bring on the Bees". Cityroom Blog. The New York Times. Retrieved 8 April 2014. 
  16. ^ a b BRIQUELET, KATE (June 3, 2012). "New York’s beekeeping craze bringing dangerous swarms". New York Post. Retrieved June 28, 2012. 
  17. ^ SATOW, JULIE (September 5, 2013). "As Busy as His Bees". nytimes.com. The New York Times. Retrieved 8 April 2014. 
  18. ^ SATOW, JULIE (August 6, 2013). "Worker Bees on a Rooftop, Ignoring Urban Pleasures". nytimes.com. The New York Times. Retrieved 8 April 2014. 
  19. ^ "Hobby Beekeeping". Planning Department. City of Vancouver. 2007. Retrieved 8 April 2014. 
  20. ^ a b "About". Strathcona Beekeepers. Retrieved 8 April 2014. 
  21. ^ Scott, Derek (Apr 22, 2010). "The roof is buzzing - literally - at Vancouver's convention centre". theglobeandmail.com. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  22. ^ "Draft Greenest City 2020 Action Plan". Deputy City Manager and Director, Sustainability Group. City of Vancouver. January 20, 2011. p. 11. Retrieved 8 April 2014. 
  23. ^ http://itineraire.ca/2502-article-des-abeilles-a-l-accueil-bonneau-edition-du-mardi-15-juillet-2014.html
  24. ^ Corroon, Nick (19 May 2014). "As Local As it Gets: Alvéole Brings Beekeeping Back Home". The Main. Retrieved 15 August 2014. 
  25. ^ Potempa, Philip. "The buzz on urban beekeeping: Chicago high-rises are home to hives flowing with honey". Shore magazine. NWI Times. Retrieved 24 September 2014. 
  26. ^ Bellware, Kim. "Skokie Beekeeping Ban Defeated, Though Village May Look To Regulating Backyard Hives In Future". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 24 September 2014. 
  27. ^ "We're living in an urban forest". City Of Johannesburg. 
  28. ^ "GN R858 15 November 2013 Control Measures Honeybees". Bee Removers Association of South Africa. 
  29. ^ Mabel Sieh and Pearl Chan (28 July 2010). "Rooftop colony". scmp.com. South China Morning Post. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  30. ^ Johnson, Bree (12 July 2011). "Making Honey for Restaurants on Rooftops". Broadsheet. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  31. ^ Ting, Inga (June 11, 2013). "The new buzz on the street". goodfood.com.au. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  32. ^ Laura Pavesi (24 March 2014). "Apicoltura urbana: allevare api e produrre miele fra i tetti di Torino - See more at: http://www.italiachecambia.org/2014/03/apicoltura-urbana-allevare-api-produrre-miele-torino/#sthash.Bf4TaP1Y.dpuf". Voci dall'Italia che cambia. Retrieved 2 March 2015. 
  33. ^ Kobayashi, Eugene (2013, 12, 11). "Tokyo Honey: A Role for Urban Bees". Our World. United Nations University. Retrieved 11 April 2014.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  34. ^ http://www.dw.de/bee-business-picking-up-in-berlin/a-16323295