Solving Cities

Urban beekeeping keeps cities healthy

Posting in Cities

Researcher Noah Wilson-Rich draws attention to the striking correlations between the survival of honey bees and the future health of cities.

"We need bees for the future of our cities and urban living," Noah Wilson-Rich said at TEDxBoston.

Wilson-Rich completed his Ph.D. in honeybee health in 2005. In 2006, honeybees started disappearing.

"We don't even find dead bodies, and it's bizarre. Researchers still do not know what's causing it," says Wilson-Rich.

We've been hearing about the disappearance of bees for some time, but Wilson-Rich is bringing a new perspective to the table.

Cities need bees, and bees need cities.

"We're very co-evolved because we depend on bees for pollination and even more recently, as an economic commodity." Wilson-Rich went on to note that in cities "bees are surviving better than in the country. They also produce more honey."

There are a number of possible reasons. Cities are warmer, trains carry pollen into heavily populated areas, and there may be fewer pesticides in urban areas. In other words, Colony Collapse Disorder is not the only thing affecting bees.

But even though the physical urban environment supports healthy bees, the social urban environment certainly does not. There is a reason urban beekeepers take care to keep their beehives out of sight.

Wilson-Rich wants to change that:

"The way that urban beekeeping currently operates is that the beehives are quite hidden. it's not because they need to be, it's because people are uncomfortable with the idea." As the world population explodes, "We need to change the way that we see cities."

We also need to change the way we see bees.

Take New York City as an example. This aerial shot shows grey tar paper rooftops reflecting heat back into the atmosphere:

Wilson-Rich urges us to consider just how future-forward green roofs would be. "We create our own crops right in the cities. We save on the costs of transportation, we save on a healthier diet, and we also educate and create new jobs locally."

Look elsewhere, and great examples of urban beekeeping can be found.

The opera house in Paris has kept bees on the roof for years. In Boston, the rooftop of the Sea Port hotel houses hundreds of thousands of bees (pollinating hundreds of local gardens throughout the city). The Fairmont Copley Plaza also helps out, and went so far as to stylistically match their bee boxes to the inside of the hotel.

Now that the ban on urban beekeeping in New York City has been lifted (it was illegal until 2010), there's no reason for closet bee lovers to hold back.

Moral of the story? Start producing liquid gold on a rooftop near you!

Need help? Contact Best Bees Company, Wilson-Rich's answer for budding beekeepers.

Watch the TEDxBoston video here.

Sonya James

Contributing Writer

Sonya James is a multimedia producer based in New York. With creativity and innovation in mind, she speaks to diverse voices on topics from racism in the art world to the patriotic nature of southern food. She holds a Masters Degree in Community Development. Disclosure