TED Conversations

Carly Otis

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Can urban beehives increase food production?

It has been estimated that somewhere between fifty and ninety percent of the colonies of bees in US beekeeping operations have collapsed from a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). This disorder is characterized by the disappearance of bees from a colony, but a lack of dead bodies to explain where they went. Some scientists believe that the culprit is a virus known as the Israeli acute paralysis virus (Cox-Foster et al, 2007). CCD is causing the collapse of bee colonies all over the world, reducing pollination rates, and causing essential food sources to become more scarce and more expensive. Noah Wilson-Rich, a scientist who studies bee diseases, has suggested an easy solution to the problem: urban beekeeping. In his Ted Talk “Every City Needs Healthy Honey Bees”, Wilson-Rich shares that bees are actually surviving better in urban environments than rural ones. He suggests that increasing the number of urban beehives, along with introducing green roofs and urban gardens, will allow food production to begin to increase (while also reducing the prices of many crops). In many cities in the United States it is illegal to have a beehive because people are allergic and/or afraid of bees, but in some countries urban beekeeping is thriving (Paris, France is a great example!). 

Do you think it is possible for the United States to develop an urban beekeeping industry? Would it have enough of a positive outcome to outweigh the downsides of urban beehives?



Closing Statement from Carly Otis

After much conversation, I think it is safe to say that most people think that urban beehives will have a positive influence on honey bee populations and biological diversity in urban environments. However, many people pointed out that this will not solve the issue of colony collapse disorder that is facing bees. Much more research needs to be done to determine what the true culprit of this phenomenon is (possibilities are neonicotinoid pesticides, varroa mites, Israeli acute paralysis virus, etc), but in the meanwhile urban beehives can help to maintain populations. It was mentioned a few times throughout the conversation that many people will be opposed to the introduction of urban beehives due to the rather large portion of our society that is afraid of and/or allergic to bees. To get around this, many people suggested that schools implement some sort of program to teach the public that honey bees are actually nothing to be afraid of, and that they will only harm you if you harm them. In addition, keeping beehives in places that are out of public view will help to alleviate some issues relating to neighborly disputes and accidental stings. One good technique is to place hives on rooftops, which will force bees to fly at a higher elevation and reduce the amount of bee-human interactions. Another issue with urban beekeeping is that there are much fewer food resources for bees in urban environments than rural ones, so it was decided that an urban beekeeping industry will only be successful in places where urban gardens and/or green roofs are also successful. Overall, it sounds like urban beekeeping has a good chance in the U.S., as long as we begin to educate people about honey bees and how critical they are for food production.

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  • May 21 2013: Another benefit from local bee hives is alergy reduction. I teaspoon of local honey a day and my alergies are almost gone.
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      May 22 2013: Actually, I've heard a lot about bee honey and pollen in terms of allergy reduction and I think this is definitely something worth exploring as a pro for urban beehives. While there hasn't really been any real research done into the benefits of local honey in treating allergies, I personally have noticed a difference in mine after eating honey bought from a local farmer's market, and there has been a lot of anecdotal evidence. It would make sense that local honey would help with a specific region's allergy symptoms as the pollen in the air is the same used in the local honey. It would be very beneficial, I'm sure, knowing how many people suffer from minor springtime allergies and hay fever.

      Here's a link to an article about honey and allergies:
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      May 22 2013: I heard about this idea last year after I had a really bad allergy problem, and I have to say that it definitely works for me as well. I think a lot more people could benefit from local honey as an allergy reducer, especially here in Eugene where spring pollen counts are higher than most of the country.
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      May 22 2013: I too have terrible grass allergies, compounded by living in the grass seed capital of the world, and have heard that local honey can help that, so for the past year i've been going through it by the jar. It seems it may be helping, today and yesterday have been the first days my allergies have been extra-bad this year, so that could be something, but I still need to see how I hold up over the summer before I'm completely convinced...
      • May 22 2013: It needs to start before the season and bee (pun intended) consistent.

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