Urban beekeeping

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Honey bee in Toronto

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.

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. Bees pollinate a wide variety of plants, and the honey they produce is often sold to local restaurants and in local shops.[2] Many urban areas now regulate beekeeping,[2] and 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 City.[6] According to a 2015 research study, urban environments favor viability and transmission of some disease agents that affect honey bees and may be a contributing factor to their diseases.[7]

One problem created by a surfeit of bees is swarming,[8] when a queen leaves an overcrowded colony with a retinue of workers to start her own.

Urban beekeeping cities[edit]

Some cities are veritable hives of beekeeping activity while others offer plentiful green space but harbor few apiaries.

North America[edit]

Bees producing honey in a hive.


Detroit is not only home to a burgeoning population of native bees, but also hosts several "urban farms" (not all of which maintain hives), including the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative. the Hantz Farm, D-Town Farm, Recovery Park Farms, and Earthworks Urban Farms. A 2017 newcomer is Detroit Hives, a non-profit dedicated to acquiring vacant lots and setting them up with bee hives, along with community education and outreach.[9]


In 2003, Richard M. Daley, then Mayor of Chicago, had two beehives placed atop City Hall. Michael S. Thompson was put in charge of their care. Subsequently, the bee population in the city has grown.[10]

In 2013, a ban on beekeeping was defeated in the Chicago suburb of Skokie. The village may regulate backyard beekeeping in the future.[11]


Beekeepers in Halifax must register with the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture.[12] In the downtown area of the city, it has been suggested that beekeeping should be limited to rooftops.[13]


Beepods Beekeeping System Rooftop Milwaukee Wisconsin CORE EL CENTRO
A Beepod Vented-Top-Bar Hive on the roof of a non-profit, CORE/El Centro, overlooks downtown Milwaukee and serves as an education location to teach new beekeepers.

In 2010, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, passed a beekeeping ordinance[14] allowing individuals to practice beekeeping in the urban center of the city. Since the ordinance was passed, a variety of urban beekeepers have started taking part in Milwaukee's Community Pollinator Initiative.[15]


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 restrictive enough to deter or discourage committed hobbyists.

The Westmount Library, a locus of learning and community, has a public honeybee hive on its roof featuring live 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 expositions with introductory workshops and daily tour groups.

As part of their 135th anniversary, Birks Group installed three honeybee hives on the roof of their downtown headquarters in Montreal.[16]

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.[17]

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 increasingly popular in this metropolitan city.[18]

New York[edit]

Until 2010, beekeeping was illegal in New York City, 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.[19] When the ban was lifted, only the non-aggressive Apis Mellifera species was allowed to be kept.[20] While registering beehives is required,[20] 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

In New York, there are beehives at InterContinental The Barclay Hotel,[21] the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel,[21] the York Prep School,[6] the Brooklyn Navy Yard,[22] and the Bank of America Tower (New York City).[23]


While urban beekeeping is touted as a new trend, hives have been kept discreetly in Toronto for many years. Several beekeepers kept around fifty hives each along the Don River in the beginning of the 20th century, and there was a beekeeping co-op near the Don Valley Brick Works into the late 1950s. Mayor William Dennison kept nineteen colonies in his Jarvis Street backyard during the 1970s.[24] During this time, beekeeping equipment could be bought in the downtown’s Little Italy / Little Portugal area.

As of 2015, Toronto does not have any bylaws governing beekeeping, so the Ontario Bees Act applies. The Act does not address urban beekeeping but contains a 30-meter set back requirement for property lines, and a 10-meter set back requirement for highways;[25] however the rule has gone largely unenforced as few urban lots are spacious enough to meet requirements concerning proximity to property lines, dwellings, and highways. In 2011, there were 107 registered hives in Toronto.[26]

Some of the many Toronto landmarks host to honeybee hives include: the Fort York historic site,[27] the rooftop of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts,[26] the University of Toronto,[26] the roof of Amsterdam Brewing Company,[24] and the Fairmont Royal York hotel.[28]


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.[29]

In Vancouver, Vancouver Convention Centre[30] and Vancouver City Hall[31] are two places where bees are kept.

One hotel chain that uses beekeeping as a point of differentiation in Vancouver is Fairmont. In 2008, Fairmont started placing beehives on hotel rooftop gardens. Today the hotel franchise operates global beekeeping initiatives at over 20 properties.[32] Both Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver and Fairmont Vancouver Airport have hives either attached to the hotel or residing nearby. At Fairmont Waterfront, hotel guests are treated to a guided tour of the hives and gardens. Currently, the Fairmont Vancouver Airport houses “one million honey bees [...] who produce about 2,400 pounds of honey.”[33] At the Fairmont Waterfront, 500,000 bees work together to “produce 600-800 pounds of honey per year.” The honey from the hives is then used by hotel chefs.[33]

In 2014, Fairmont started building empty nesting sites, so-called "bee hotels," to help attract wild mason bees.[33] In 2015 Fairmont Waterfront partnered with Hives For Humanity to create a bee pollinator hotel. The practice may not be entirely beneficial as one biologist suggests bee hotels “favor non-native species of bees and wasps over our native species".[34]



The number of beekeepers in the city is growing rapidly: 300 in 2010, there are today more than 1000. Young people are more and more interested in the hobby,[35] book beginner courses at the beekeepers and share photos of their work on the internet. Beekeeper associations are speaking of a boom.[36]


Beekeeping in London has become increasingly popular. The number of beekeepers rose 220% between 1999 and 2012[4] with other figures showing a 200% increase between 2008 and 2013.[37] 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.[37]

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.[38] Organizations supporting best practices for urban beekeeping in London include The London Beekeeper's Association,[39] which holds monthly meetings, provides mentoring to new beekeepers, and lends out beekeeping supplies.[40]

In London, bees are kept at department store Fortnum & Mason,[5] Lambeth Palace,[3] Buckingham Palace,[41] the London Stock Exchange,[5] the Natural History Museum,[3] the Tate Modern,[42] and at the Royal Lancaster Hotel,[5] etc. Hives once stood atop the Bank of England as well.[3]


Urban beekeeping is a growing hobby and industry in İstanbul and beehives can be found from city parks to high rise buildings' terraces.[43] Beekeeping in the city, especially at its outer districts, is supported by the municipal government, İBB.[44] Hotels like The Ritz-Carlton in İstanbul also reportedly have urban beehives for their restaurant's honey needs.[45] Urban beekeeping has been described as a not easy hobby in İstanbul, which has fewer green spaces compared to other cities in Turkey.[46] Unregistered beehives can also be spotted in some parks in downtown districts of İstanbul.[47]

Hasan Efe from the Apiculture Research Institute stated that beekeeping in İstanbul's city center could harm the insects’ physiology, adding gas coming out of vehicles and environmental conditions can also contaminate urban honey with heavy metals.[47] Yet these claims were challenged as some research centers did not found any significantly elevated levels of heavy metals in urban honey examples.[48] Swarming is also a problem, as it had happened in Kadıköy and Beyoğlu districts multiple times.[49] Cooperation with neighbors about beehives has been described as a vital factor for beekeeping in downtown İstanbul.[48]

Local and international conferences and seminars about urban beekeeping are being held in the city.[50] İstanbul has also hosted the 45th edition of Apimondia from October 29  through November 4, 2017.[51]



Johannesburg has over 6 million trees and on satellite pictures looks like a rain forest.[52] This environment is highly beneficial for urban beekeepers, who often have higher honey yields per hive than other Highveld beekeepers. In South Africa, anyone who handles bees must be registered as a beekeeper with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (South Africa).[53]

Other cities[edit]

Urban beekeeping exists in many major cities and has been reported in: Berlin,[54] Hamburg,[55] Hong Kong,[56] Melbourne,[57] Sydney,[58] and Tokyo,[59] amongst others.

See also[edit]


  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. ^ Youngsteadt, Elsa; Holden Appler, R.; M. López-Uribe, Margarita; R. Tarpy, David; D. Frank, Steven (4 November 2015). "Urbanization Increases Pathogen Pressure on Feral and Managed Honey Bees". PLOS ONE. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0142031. PMC 4633120. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  8. ^ BRIQUELET, KATE (June 3, 2012). "New York's beekeeping craze bringing dangerous swarms". New York Post. Retrieved June 28, 2012.
  9. ^ https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/detroits-newest-industrial-workers-bees?fbclid=IwAR0zu2Dcy1c8R31JarFOwKk3pD8HBOVyhIraH8EpYMY728hqQ9Y80k6SLf8#.XSqGVMSB1BM.facebook
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Bellware, Kim. "Skokie Beekeeping Ban Defeated, Though Village May Look To Regulating Backyard Hives In Future". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 24 September 2014.
  12. ^ "Beekeeper & Apiary Registration". novascotia.ca. Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture. August 2014. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  13. ^ "Proposed Changes to Downtown Halifax Plan and LUB: Presentation to Design Review Committee" (PDF). City of Halifax. 11 June 2015. Retrieved 20 August 2015. Beekeeping will only be permitted on rooftops.
  14. ^ Tajanko, Darius. "City of Milwaukee - File #: 091282". milwaukee.legistar.com. Retrieved 2016-12-16.
  15. ^ "Milwaukee's Community Pollinator Initiative - Beepods". Beepods. Retrieved 2016-12-16.
  16. ^ "Birks Marketing Exec Eva Hartling Offers Buzz on Bee Inspired Campaign". notable.ca. Notable. June 5, 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  17. ^ "Actualité & culture Des abeilles à l'Accueil Bonneau - L'Itinéraire". L'Itinéraire. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  18. ^ Corroon, Nick (19 May 2014). "As Local As it Gets: Alvéole Brings Beekeeping Back Home". The Main. Retrieved 15 August 2014.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ a b Navarro, Mireya (March 16, 2010). "Bring on the Bees". Cityroom Blog. The New York Times. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
  21. ^ a b BRIQUELET, KATE (June 3, 2012). "New York's beekeeping craze bringing dangerous swarms". New York Post. Retrieved June 28, 2012.
  22. ^ SATOW, JULIE (September 5, 2013). "As Busy as His Bees". nytimes.com. The New York Times. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
  23. ^ SATOW, JULIE (August 6, 2013). "Worker Bees on a Rooftop, Ignoring Urban Pleasures". nytimes.com. The New York Times. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
  24. ^ a b Fane, Kate. "Toronto Swarms to Urban Beekeeping". Torontoist. Ink Truck Media. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  25. ^ "Bees Act". e-laws. Government of Ontario. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  26. ^ a b c Freeman, Fran (July–August 2014). "Urban Beekeeping: Good for Cities And Bees". Ontario Bee Journal. 33 (04): 14–15.
  27. ^ McKechnie, Brian (June 17, 2015). "Honey, hives and highrises: Why urban beekeeping is trending in Canada". Global News. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  28. ^ Gordon, Daphne (June 5, 2008). "Royal York rooftop garden a hive for bees". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  29. ^ "Hobby Beekeeping" (PDF). Planning Department. City of Vancouver. 2007. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
  30. ^ Scott, Derek (April 22, 2010). "The roof is buzzing - literally - at Vancouver's convention centre". theglobeandmail.com. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  31. ^ "Draft Greenest City 2020 Action Plan" (PDF). Deputy City Manager and Director, Sustainability Group. City of Vancouver. January 20, 2011. p. 11. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
  32. ^ "Fairmont expands its 'bee hotel' program | Toronto Star". thestar.com. Retrieved 2017-03-08.
  33. ^ a b c "Fairmont Bee Sustainable". www.fairmont.com. Retrieved 2017-03-08.
  34. ^ Otis, Daniel. "Fairmont expands its 'bee hotel' program." Thestar.com. N.p., 02 June 2015. Web. 27 Jan. 2017.
  35. ^ "Gute Leute Magazine". https://guteleutemagazine.com/2017/08/13/the-life-in-hh-of-two-part-time-french-beekeepers/. Retrieved 2018-09-14. External link in |website= (help)
  36. ^ "Imker: Goldene Zeiten". ZEIT ONLINE (in German). Retrieved 2018-09-14.
  37. ^ a b "Rise in urban beekeeping may be bad for bees, scientists warn". cbc.ca. CBC. August 14, 2013. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  38. ^ "Bringing the buzz back to gardens and rooftops". Natural England. 5 August 2009. Archived from the original on 21 November 2011. 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.
  39. ^ "What we do". lbka.org.uk. The London Beekeepers' Association. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  40. ^ "Members". The London Beekeepers' Association. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
  41. ^ 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.
  42. ^ Briggs, Hannah (27 September 2012). "Honey suffers after bad year for bees". bbc.co.uk. BBC. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  43. ^ Şafak, Yeni (2013-09-22). "Apartmanda 50 bin arıyla başbaşa". Yeni Şafak (in Turkish). Retrieved 2019-10-26.
  44. ^ "HABERLER - VETERİNER HİZMETLERİ MÜDÜRLÜĞÜ". gida.ibb.istanbul. Retrieved 2019-10-26.
  45. ^ "Bees on a terrace". Hürriyet Daily News. Retrieved 2019-10-26.
  46. ^ "Şehrin göbeğinde bal üretiyor". CNN Türk (in Turkish). Retrieved 2019-10-26.
  47. ^ a b "Mysterious beehives in park overlooking Bosphorus in Istanbul raise questions - Turkey News". Hürriyet Daily News. Retrieved 2019-10-26.
  48. ^ a b "İstanbul'un gizli arıcısı ve bir sanatsal eylem olarak arıcılık | Buğday Blog" (in Turkish). Retrieved 2019-10-26.
  49. ^ "Escaped bees stir panic on Istanbul's İstiklal Avenue - Turkey News". Hürriyet Daily News. Retrieved 2019-10-26.
  50. ^ "Kent kovanları". Uplifers (in Turkish). 2016-05-04. Retrieved 2019-10-26.
  51. ^ "Report on Turkish beekeeping in the run up to Apimondia 2017 in Istanbul". Apis Information Resource Center. Retrieved 2019-10-26.
  52. ^ "We're living in an urban forest". City Of Johannesburg.
  53. ^ "GN R858 15 November 2013 Control Measures Honeybees" (PDF). Bee Removers Association of South Africa.
  54. ^ "Bee business picking up in Berlin". Deutsche Welle. 23 October 2012. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  55. ^ "Imker: Goldene Zeiten". ZEIT ONLINE (in German). Retrieved 2018-09-17.
  56. ^ Mabel Sieh and Pearl Chan (28 July 2010). "Rooftop colony". scmp.com. South China Morning Post. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
  57. ^ Johnson, Bree (12 July 2011). "Making Honey for Restaurants on Rooftops". Broadsheet. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
  58. ^ Ting, Inga (June 11, 2013). "The new buzz on the street". goodfood.com.au. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
  59. ^ Kobayashi, Eugene (12 November 2013). "Tokyo Honey: A Role for Urban Bees". Our World. United Nations University. Retrieved 11 April 2014.