What’s all the Buzz in Urban Agriculture?

Bee-ing Active in Urban Agriculture

Bee keeping is an exciting form of agriculture that is taking off in urbanized areas. There are many factors to consider when Starting a Small Beekeeping Operation. To be able to tend to bees, there are many items to consider. These small arthropods or livestock are important contributors to pollinating a large portion of produce across the nation; in numerous classes and seminars, speakers always remind the guests that bees provide ecosystem service of pollination accounting for about a 1/3 of the vegetation as well as produce. As described in the Bees in the City, urbanized areas can be viewed as a beneficial environment for bees as-

  • They are shielded from predation
  • Protected from herbicides and insecticides
  • Biodiverse environments
  • Warmer climactic conditions from the urban environment

Urban Farmer Moving Hives

These insects not only provide pollination for flowers, fruit, and vegetables but, provide populations with byproducts of beeswax and honey-based products. These arthropods can aid in the biodiversity of an urban forest; to provide green in areas primarily of stone and structures.

Varroa Mites in a Developing Bee Population

The Challenges of Beekeeping

There are common types of issues that can arise from beekeeping in urban areas provided in the Guide to beekeeping, community gardening & more in the city

  • Bee phobia and allergy
  • Keeping distance from the surrounding neighbors and businesses
  • Swarming for a new colony establishment
  • Limited to minimal access to food and water; poor nutrition
  • Viruses in colonies
  • Bacterial pathogen exposure
  • Parasites (Varroa Mites)

Beekeepers have a variety of responses to these issues to prevent colony collapse. They create documentation or information for individuals who have bee phobias to lessen the fear. It is important to establish good connections with the locals of the areas to aid in the success in the business. It is important to provide a stress-free zone for the bees to prevent the colony from swarming and or reestablishing; it is also important to provide the correct type of housing or hives and the necessary equipment for their safety as well as individuals near the colony. To ensure health of the colony, the keepers must monitor and inspect their bee population to ensure there is sufficient nutrients or any visual signs or symptoms from disease or pathogen exposure. If the colony is exposed to the Varroa Mites, there are a variety of integrated pest management strategies that can be employed.

Beekeeper Inspecting the Population

The Regulations of Beekeeping

There are regulations and ordinances for beekeeping described in the Honey, It’s All the Buzz: Regulating Neighborhood Beehives. There are few federal restrictions on honey production and sales however, the USDA can restrict the importation of honeybees and pertaining products into the United States to protect the bee industry from exposure to diseases, parasites, and genetic complications. Both the USDA and the FDA have oversight of honey manufacturing and labeling; the labels must identify country of origin as well as nutritional ingredients. Individuals states also impose regulations and inspections to apiaries to prevent contamination and disease spread. There are regulations on a variety of aspects of bee management-

  • Procedures for conducting inspections
  • Requirements for moving bees across states
  • Provisions for quarantine
  • Seizure of non-compliant hives
  • Destruction of diseased bees and contaminated equipment
  • Requirement for apiary siting and identification
  • Provisions for nuisances

Some regions such as San Diego require that colonies require commercial beekeepers and hobbyists to take online beekeeping, complete apiary registration forms, as well as report the number and location of bee colonies (according to the tier system-A, B, or C) to the Agricultural Commissioner.

There are stipulations under the Cottage Food Law, where individuals who own the bees can process the food item at their residence do not need a Cottage Food Operations permit whereas individuals are processing the food item in their home from bees they do not home, a Cottage Food Operation permit is needed.

Urban Beekeeper Tending to Bees

In some cities, they may need to amend ordinances to reclassify or clarify that bees are not prohibited wild animals. In California there are legislation in regards to bee management and honey production. A limiting issue to beekeepers is the lot size and density they can house on their property; these limitations ensure that the population does not grow to extreme numbers and become a nuisance. In some states, there are bee ordinances that include registration requiring information about the number and location of the hives in order to obtain registration from the state Department of Public Health. At local levels, there are apiary registration laws. The apiary must be identified with signage that is easily identifiable with contact information of the beekeeper.


Even though the urbanized area is said to provide a safer environment for bees it still poses the question if Colony Collapse Disorder is lessened or reduced due to the urbanized environment. Or if there is any exposure to wild bees or Africanized Honey Bees. Also, the extent of transporting hives to different regions (building tops) with injuring or disrupting the bees.


Agriculture Ombudsman, Cottage Food Operation (n.d.). University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. https://ucanr.edu/sites/CESonomaAgOmbuds/Value_Add_Products/Cottage_Food_Bill/#list

Bees in the City. (2020). Beeproject Apiaries. Retrieved November 22, 2020, from https://beeproject.ca/urban-beekeeping

Code Section Group: Bee Management and Honey Production. (2020). Retrieved November 23, 2020, from https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displayexpandedbranch.xhtml?tocCode=FAC

French, K. (2019). Urban Agriculture: A Guide to Beekeeping, Community Gardening, & More in the City. Cambridge Public Health Department.    https://www.cambridgepublichealth.org/publications/urban-agriculture/Urban-Agriculture-  Guide-2019-Cambridge-MA.pdf

Mussen, E. C. (1994). Starting a Small Beekeeping Operation. Retrieved November 22, 2020, from http://sfp.ucdavis.edu/pubs/SFNews/archives/94032/

Salkin, P. E. (2012). Honey, It’s All the Buzz: Regulating Neighborhood Beehives. Boston College Environment Affairs Law Review. 39(1). http://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/ealr/vol39/iss1/2

One thought on “What’s all the Buzz in Urban Agriculture?

  1. This article was written very well with extensive amounts of information. The information covers topics to types of management practices, how beekeeping is regulated, and challenges urban beekeeping faces. Some aspects I found interesting within my own research come from the following links:
    Although most of the information was retrieved from the last source since it is from an association that follows policies for bee keeping

    Why do people even urban beekeeper oppose lenient regulations?
    • It is easier to kill off feral bees than to manage them.
    • The ideal honey bees are European bees and more specifically Italian bees who are known for their docile behavior.
    • In Southern California wild bees also known as city bees are Africanized bees who are also known as killer bees.
    • Africanized bees are known to have erratic behavior. When they originally colonized in Southern California they were known to attack at random. Now they are seemingly more docile and capable of being domesticated.
    • Urban beekeepers and other members believe that wild bees should not be applied in backyard hives as this would only be asking for trouble.
    • In order to deal with Africanized bees and aggressive colonies you can remove the bee and exchange it for a European bee by the time the process is completed the older generations would be close to dying and that would leave offspring of the European bee.
    Impacts for the environment
    • Bees need areas where there is a lot to forage in areas like LA there are less areas like this available.
    • In years of drought bees especially suffered since plants were not producing enough nectar to be a stable food source for bees.
    • Urban bees cannot counteract the depleting bees needed for the thousands of acres of commercial agricultural land.
    Facts about bees
    • 97% of the hive is comprised of females.
    • A queen can lay up to 2,000 eggs a day.
    • $235 billion to $557 billion worth of global food production depends on pollinators such as bees
    • Bees chew nectar for 30 minutes and continue this process till the nectar becomes honey and then it is stored in honeycomb cells that is sealed off with wax


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