EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

World/National News

November 4, 2012

Honeybees get help from urban beekeepers

AKRON, Ohio — Sarah Smithers got worried when she rarely saw bees in her Akron, Ohio, yard.

She knew how important bees were for pollination and was aware of the health threats faced by honeybees, in particular. “I just got worried that there was no place for them to be,” she said.

So she created a place, right on her front porch.

For about four years Smithers has kept two honeybee hives in her urban neighborhood, not far from busy East Market Street. From there bees fan out over the neighborhood, pollinating plants in their travels and bringing back nectar and pollen for use by their colonies.

She said she’d hoped the bees would deter homeless people from stopping on her porch, but either they didn’t realize what the hives were or didn’t care. So she put up fencing and removed the porch steps instead.

Many people think of beekeeping as a rural pursuit, but bees are just as important in urban areas, beekeepers say. In fact, since New York City lifted its beekeeping ban in 2010, bee hives have been proliferating in unlikely places like rooftops and balconies.

Beehives are found on the White House grounds and the roof of the Paris Opera House, and Dutch electronics company Philips has even developed a prototype of a glass, window-mounted beehive perfect for an urban apartment.

Even in the city, plenty of plants are available to support honeybees, said Denise Ellsworth, director of Ohio State University’s honeybee and native pollinator education program.

Ellsworth said the bees will visit a long list of plants, including annuals, perennials, herbs and blooming trees and shrubs. They’ll also travel three miles or more in their searches for nectar and pollen, she said.

“Typically finding forage in a big city isn’t a big problem,” Ellsworth said.

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