Feeding Honeybees in the City: Why and How

| 8/16/2013 9:01:00 AM

Tags: Kim Flottum, honeybees, urban beekeeping, Ohio,

Don’t honeybees find their own food? Nectar and pollen from flowers, right? Why on earth would I feed honeybees?

Well, look at it this way: 

First off, bees don’t belong in North America. They came from somewhere else, and that’s where their foodcity bees 1 grows. Now, along with honeybees we’ve moved a lot of their food sources to North America, too, so there is a presence here, but not everywhere. So, one thing going against them is that they can’t find the right food.

And then there’s the weather. Can’t do anything but complain about the weather, but if it doesn’t cooperate, plants don’t bloom, or they bloom in the rain, or it freezes early, or there’s not enough rain, or there’s a late freeze that kills darn near everything. And then there’s the artificial weather big cities cause. All that cement is a heat sink in summer, keeping the ambient temperature, especially at night, warmer than normal. This does affect the length of time blossoms last, when they start and finish, and even how much nectar they produce. It’s all iffy, but it’s all been looked at in other ways. Warm up the weather and blooms come sooner and don’t last as long. How can it be any different in the city?

And don’t forget about that new mall down the street where the park used to be. Also, did you know that half the lawns in the United States cover more acres than all of the national parks? Only half! And, except for an errant dandelion or clover blossom, lawns don’t provide much forage for honey bees.

And the newest phenom— too many bees! Can that be? Really? London has gone from about 1,500 colonies to about 3,000 colonies in the last five years. London is 606 square miles, and that works out to be just under 400,000 acres, or .007 colonies/acre, or 5 colonies/square mile. New York is less than half of that from what I can tell. I wonder if overcrowding is really an issue. But it might be. 

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