Beekeepers in the City

Pittsburgh residents band together to keep bees.


| January/February 2010



A honeybee collects pollen from a cherry blossom.

A honeybee collects pollen from a cherry blossom.

iStockphoto.com/Proxy Minder

With the towering buildings of a city skyline as a backdrop, honeybees seek nectar and gather pollen from flowers growing in apartment gardens and parks – in wealthy areas as well as poor city neighborhoods. When loaded with sustaining cargo, they return to their Pittsburgh hives. These honeybees didn’t seek out an urban lifestyle, but they’ve successfully made the transition, with a little help from an organization known as Burgh Bees.

Apiarists Alex and Meredith Grelli, Jennifer Wood, and Robert Steffes organized Burgh Bees to bring the pleasure of beekeeping to the urban environment.

“Alex and I moved from Chicago to a ‘yardless’ house in Pittsburgh in 2006. We wanted so badly to keep bees in Pittsburgh and tried to jury-rig all kinds of solutions for our townhouse but were met with a whole host of issues,” Meredith says. “Our house is sandwiched between our neighbors’ with about two feet of space between them. We thought of trying (to have a beehive) on our roof, but ultimately decided it didn’t seem safe.

“That’s when we got ahold of Jennifer Wood and Robert Steffes, who’ve been telling people around town about bees for some time, and we asked if they wanted to team up on this initiative. Despite having 35 acres and a dozen hives of their own, they jumped at the chance of getting urbanites involved.”

Since organizing in 2006, Burgh Bees has established 14 hives, including four small demonstration apiaries in neighborhoods around the city and one at the Pittsburgh Zoo. The demonstration apiaries offer students the opportunity to experience an intensive beekeeper training program sponsored by Burgh Bees. Alex Grelli believes the classes are important to help urban beekeeping grow.

“We hold classes about twice a month. Our ‘intensive beekeeper training program’ involves 10 sessions from April to November,” Alex says. “In addition to those sessions, we also invite class and community members out to the hives on a weekly basis when we check them outside of scheduled classes.”

wesley
1/2/2010 7:18:11 PM

I lived in Seattle from 6th grade through high school. There were several kinds of flowers and flowering shrubs in the yard. We also had plenty of honeybees. I think the Pittsburgh project is a good idea. We live near Dover, Ohio. The past few years we have been hearing about a declining honeybee population, mainly due to mites. We have had plenty of bumblebees, but in 2009 I noticed more honeybees than the previuous years. There were lots of marigolds and California poppies in our garden. Honeybees frequented the poppies, and bumblebees the marigolds. Hopefully the honeybees are developing resistance to the mites. I also see honeybees on clover heads and dandilions. I think eradicating clover from too many lawns and mowing too frequently deprives the honeybee population of forgage






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