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Urban beekeeping is the practice of keeping bee colonies in urban areas. It may also be referred to as hobby beekeeping or backyard beekeeping. Bees from city apiaries are said to be "healthier and more productive than their country cousins". Their presence also provides cities with environmental and economic benefits.
Bees pollinate a wide variety of plants, and the honey they produce is often sold to local restaurants and in local shops. Most cities in North America at one time prohibited the keeping of bees, but in recent years beekeepers have had success in overturning bee bans. Many urban areas now regulate beekeeping. While registering beehives is often mandatory, a high proportion of urban beekeepers fail to inform the city.
The popularity of urban beekeeping was growing rapidly c. 2012 perhaps due to its inclusion in the local food movement. Between 1999 and 2012, London saw a 220% increase in beekeepers. The number of urban beehives varies greatly from city to city and official counts may be inaccurate as hives are often not registered. As cities have limited greenspaces, the increasing popularity of the hobby may lead to lower honey yields as has been reported in London and New York City. According to a 2015 research study, urban environments favor viability and transmission of some disease agents that affect honey bees and may be a contributing factor to their diseases. Another problem created by a surfeit of bees is swarming, when a queen leaves an overcrowded colony with a retinue of workers to start her own.
Some cities are veritable hives of beekeeping activity while others offer plentiful green space but harbor few apiaries.
Beekeeping in London has become increasingly popular. The number of beekeepers rose 220% between 1999 and 2012 with other figures showing a 200% increase between 2008 and 2013. As of 2012, an estimated 3,200 apiaries exist in London, and while registration is mandatory, 75% were thought to operate without license. The density of hives in London is much greater than in other areas of the UK, and this has led to concerns that city greenspace may not provide sufficient forage to sustain burgeoning bee populations.
The UK government has aided the rise of keeping bees in cities by releasing a plastic beehive purpose-built for urban beekeeping. Called Beehaus, it is supported by quango Natural England. Organizations supporting best practices for urban beekeeping in London include The London Beekeeper's Association, which holds monthly meetings, provides mentoring to new beekeepers, and lends out beekeeping supplies.
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