New York City has had a growing buzz of new bee-hives. Hundreds have popped since 2010, when urban bee-keeping was legalized.
Many are inspired by concerns over a global decline in honey bees, crucial pollinators of crops. But, as CGTN’s Nick Harper reported, the hobbyists might be doing more harm than good.
Danielle Knott was part of a growing trend, bringing beekeeping from the countryside into the city. “It is a huge commitment to keep bees in the city,” said Knott of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative. “You’re dealing with neighbors, you’re dealing with registering your hives with the state, you’re dealing with all this stored equipment in your small Brooklyn apartment.”
The bees had their own city struggle: a scarcity of wildflowers to make their honey. Danielle sold her produce, earning extra cash by holding educational workshops at this urban meadow, the Naval Cemetery Landscape, in Brooklyn.
In urban spaces like New York City where wildflowers were rare, scientists also saw a fight for food. And it appeared to be the wild, native bee populations that are losing out.
Within the vaults of the American Museum of Natural History, a large proportion of the world’s 20,000 different bee species were kept as specimens.
Bee expert Sarah Kornbluth was worried about the decline of local bee varieties in the New York area. “”People keeping hives will put pressure on our native bees, on our wild native bees,” explained Kornbluth, member of the museum’s invertebrate zoology division. “Honeybees are really efficient and great collectors of nectar and pollen. So in a place like an urban area where those things may not be as plentiful as a green environment, a more green landscape, then you actually do see competition.”
Kornbluth admitted that the native bees could also be suffering because of the more general impacts of urbanization. And she did see a benefit in urban beekeeping: raising interest and awareness about the preservation of all species.
That’s something Knott saw as part of her responsibility as a beekeeper. “Because people can get excited about honeybees it opens the door for me to talk to them about native bees and the importance of them as pollinators,” said Knott. “And the important job we have of protecting their habitat and increasing their habitat now that we’ve developed over a lot of it.”
The effects of outside honeybees on native species can’t be definitively calculated. But experts said it’s vital to both educate the public and increase the supply of flowering plants to keep bee populations buzzing.