Bees have gone urban! But luckily there are plenty of city-dwellers looking for a part of that sweet beekeeping action. Kim Flottum, author of The Backyard Beekeeper and editor of Bee Culture magazine, spoke Monday night about the explosion of urban beekeeping and what hobbyists can do to ensure the trend doesn’t fizzle out, but builds enough momentum to drive a movement.

Thanks to Toni and City Bees, about 50 beekeepers from the area heard Flottum discuss the early pitfalls of backyard beekeeping that inevitably lead to its decline in popularity during the mid 70s. As the green movement picked up speed in the late 60s, Flottum said interest in beekeeping grew rapidly. However, after a few years had passed and the novelty had worn off, the beekeepers who were left got careless, complacent and arrogant, which, he urged, should set an example of what not to do.

Top of his list of best practices were water, preparedness and education. On a brutally hot DC summer day, Flottum said one hive can go through one gallon of water per day. He suggested using an automatic chicken waterer, which ensures honeybees won’t congregate at swimming pools, drinking fountains or dog bowls.

Flottum also stressed the need to be properly schooled in beekeeping, citing several reasons. As most beekeepers can attest, people are generally afraid of bees, however, that fear greatly diminishes once people are educated about how bees interact and operate. Secondly, Flottum said it will take beekeepers to advocate for the necessity of honeybees and their importance for pollination. This is a very importance step when it comes to implementing policies that accept backyard beekeeping.

With these measures in place, Flottum told the crowd it was up to them to “spread the gospel.”

“If you tell two people, then they’ll tell two more, and they’ll tell two more,” he said, “and soon you’ve got a movement.”

In addition to Flottum, Jennie Stitzinger from vanEngelsdorp Lab spoke about a study involving varroa mites and the tower hive, and Heidi Wolff described her study about pollen content, diversity and pesticide contamination among urban and suburban bee populations. Stay tuned for more about those two presentations.

April 9, 2012