By Alex Fernández Muerza
Bees disappear, urban beekeeping can help them
The decline in the number of honey bees, honey bees, has been known for five decades. But in recent years its pace has accelerated globally, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
The problem is more serious than it seems if the importance of these insects is unknown. UNEP estimates that of the 100 species of crops that provide 90% of the world's food, more than 70% are pollinated by bees. In Europe, about 84% of commercial vegetable crops and 80% of plants in the wild depend on this function, according to the European Commission (EC).
The United States (USA) have coined the term "hive depopulation syndrome" to refer to the sudden loss of their colonies, a phenomenon that occurs throughout the world. Scientists have detected more than a dozen negative factors that influence individually or together, such as pesticides, parasites, diseases, pollution or climate change.
Urban beekeeping can be a way to help bees, as well as a hobby that brings us closer to nature and provides food, such as urban gardens, and even an extra source of income.
Advantages of urban beekeeping
Paradoxically, bees have more possibilities in the city than in the countryside, as they lack a good part of the threats they suffer. In addition, as they have more quantity and variety of flowers in parks and gardens, the quality of urban honey can be even better than rural honey. In 2003, honey from London received first prize at the National Honey Show, an event promoting the quality of bee products in the UK. The bees contribute with their pollination to improve these urban green spaces.
Some people have seen a business opportunity, according to journalist and entrepreneur Nicolás Boullosa. In this sense, there are already those who market their own beehive designs or assist fans with specialized stores, such as Her Majesty's Secret Beekeeper and Waibel, in San Francisco (USA), whose owner and his bees can be seen in this video.
Bees can be used to understand urban environmental quality. In Madrid, a pollution monitoring network is being promoted based on data from bees and hives. The project, called apiLink.net, provides a useful public database for the study of the syndrome of depopulation of hives, climate change and the loss of biodiversity among others, according to its promoter, David Atauri, professor at the Escuela Superior Politécnica de the European University of Madrid.
Urban beekeeping spreads around the world
Urban beekeeping spreads all over the world: it is "Global Beekeeping". London is one of the main references, according to Mel·lis, a Catalan sustainable beekeeping company that promotes this practice in large cities and disseminates it on its Urban Beekeeping website. In the British capital, its City Council began in 2011 a public awareness campaign about the importance of protecting bees. Various associations and companies cultivate urban honey, and The Royal Lancaster Hotel even offers its guests honey produced on its roof. More than a thousand points in the United Kingdom with urban honey bees are located on this map.
In addition to London, other major capitals promote this ancient practice. In Paris, the City Council has a recovery program that has installed 300 beehives in commercial buildings, hotels or parks (they can be located on this map). In the US the White House has two hives, and in cities like New York or San Francisco they have active urban beekeepers associations. In China or Australia, various groups have organized to recover bees in cities, etc.
In Spain it is still little known, although there are already some initiatives. In Barcelona, various urban beekeeping projects have been promoted, such as the Can Soler farmhouse, the Can Masdéu social center and the Torre de los Tres Dragones. In Madrid last May a workshop on urban beekeeping was given at MediaLab Prado; In addition to David Atauri, David Rodríguez and María Vega, promoters of the Miel de Barrio project for the defense of this practice, participated. In Córdoba, the City Council installed beehives in 2007 as bioindicators of urban pollution. And the Galician city of Cullerdo inaugurated in 2012 an urban apiary in its botanical garden.