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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?

http://www.ted.com/talks/noah_wilson_rich_every_city_needs_healthy_honey_bees.html
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/318/5848/283.full

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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: Off the top of my head, I would have to say that it isn't possible. I say this because many people aren't fully informed and don't care to be so. They see bees and think that they are a menace. They don't consider the role that bees provide.

    So, in order to allow/implement this, there would need to be legislation passed to make it happen. To pass the legislation, this problem needs to be made more apparent, through informing people about the problem and getting enough funding to properly do so.

    Seeing as how our two party system can't agree on much, i highly doubt that this can be accomplished.
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      May 21 2013: Actually beekeeping has become more accepted in cities recently. New York City just legalized urban beekeeping in 2010, so I definitely think that it's possible for more cities to follow in their footsteps.

      http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/16/bring-on-the-bees/
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        May 21 2013: I am wondering if they have some regulation in order to have urban beehives?
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        May 21 2013: I would want to know the regulations, but what was it that convinced the city to change its mind after so long. If there was any research that showed statistical evidence of the beneficial effects of urban beekeeping.
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        May 21 2013: How many cities actually have a regulation or law against raising urban beehives? That'd be interesting to find that number. Or, how many cities would develop laws against it if someone wanted to put one in? Always hard to bring science into discussions like this when politics rule everything. There's obvious scientific prof all across this conversation of why urban bee hives need to be looked into, yet, we are always having to go back to "is there a law against that"? Can be disappointing.
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      May 21 2013: Make an awesome video explaining why honey bees are necessary to grow crops that humans depend on. Show this video at any "city council" meeting that is thinking about allowing urban beehives in their community. Most people already know bees are important. And most people are willing to get behind a cause they know is good and helping the world.
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        May 21 2013: The video needs to include how bees have a bad rep, not due to them stinging people, but instead it has more to do with their aggressive relatives, the wasps and hornets.
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          May 22 2013: I agree Clinton. When most people think of bees the first thing that comes to their mind is wasps or hornets. Not all bees are aggressive and I think that once people start to understand the difference between them than maybe the need to harm them will lessen.
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        May 22 2013: I would like to further say that the eradication or severe reduction of wasps and hornets might make the situation much better, especially since they don't serve much of a purpose.
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        May 22 2013: Implementation is where this would get tricky. wasps and hornets exist in much smaller groups than bees.

        My only thoughts would be that it would be a problem that would be delegated to citizens through making legislation that requires people to deal with infestations. If the infestations are harder, then it would require the city to take care of it.

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