Just because you live in an urban or suburban setting, doesn't mean you have to give up on your interest in organic gardening or fresh honey to feed your family healthfully. Gardens require pollination -- and bees are up to the task. They flit from flower to flower on your patio, deck or backyard garden, ensuring that your plants receive the pollination they need to grow your organic edibles. But instead of setting them on the ground next to your home and close to where the kids play -- put them on the roof. Even Harvard University has taken to thinking above the ground when it comes to rooftop beehives.
1. On the Roof
When beekeepers reported that their cultivated bees started dying off in large numbers in 2006, they didn't know the cause. But since then, findings indicate that agricultural pesticides and other contaminants caused colony collapse disorder in hives rented for pollination on agricultural lands. In an effort to stop the crisis in rural beekeeping, beekeepers contrarily discovered that their bees in urban and city settings were more healthy and productive. A hospital in Paramus, New Jersey added two colonies of beehives to its roof to sell honey in its gift shop and create healthy edibles for its patients. Other unlikely places you will find rooftop beehives includes the French Parliament and atop restaurant roofs in San Francisco.
The steps to maintain a beehive on a roof are the same as keeping it on the ground. You need a colony of bees with a queen, a beehive with frames to support the honeycomb, a super for honey and a brood to breed bees. Other items include a small handheld smoker, beekeeping hood, veil and suit, beehive supers and broods to make honey and breed bees on a stand. A queen excluder frame keeps the queen relegated to a special area inside the hive. Beehives take little work, a water bottle in the hot seasons, periodic checking to manage new queens and honey removal in the fall.
Urban rooftop beekeeping may require permits in the city or suburban area in which you live. Check with your local authorities if you plan to add a rooftop beehive to your home or dwelling, as some areas don't allow beekeeping within proximity of schools or hospitals. You can purchase colonies, or find local beekeepers with a new queen ready to swarm who can set you up with your beehive inexpensively. To obtain local honey, shop the farmer's market or a whole foods store that offers local produce.
Beehives require a flat roof for installation. They don't need securing to the roof, as the weight of the honey keeps the beehive in place. But if you live in an extremely windy area, it's a good idea to install rooftop beehives behind a wind break such as a chimney or a higher roof that blocks the wind. Beehives also don't require protection from the weather, because the box protects the hive from the weather. Some building jurisdictions may require input from your neighbors before a permit is issued, especially if it is not used to having rooftop beehives.
- Harvard University: The Buzz About Rooftop Beehives at Harvard
- US Department of Agriculture: Honey Bees and Colony Collapse Disorder
- Time News Feed: Rooftop Beehives Add New Buzz In French Parliament
- New Jersey.com: Honey and Healthcare -- Valley Hospital Installs Rooftop Beehives at Paramus Facility
- BBC: Paris Fast Becoming Queen Bee of the Urban Apiary World
- Huffington Post: Rooftop Beehives Create Buzz At San Francisco Restaurants
- Dan Kitwood/Getty Images News/Getty Images