May 11: The Buzz on Beekeeping main content.

May 11: The Buzz on Beekeeping

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Entomologist Gene Kritsky will discuss beekeeping on May 11. Credit: © MSJ/D. Denney

Entomologist Gene Kritsky, author of The Quest for the Perfect Hive: A History of Innovation in Bee Culture, will join beekeepers Richard Blohm and Carl Flatow for a discussion about urban beekeeping at this month’s Adventures in the Global Kitchen on Wednesday, May 11. He recently answered some questions about apiculture.

What is the earliest historic record of beekeeping, and where did it originate?

The earliest historic record of beekeeping is from the Fifth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. This relief, which is in the Neues Museum in Berlin, shows the taking of honey from horizontal hives, extracting the honey from the wax, and sealing in jars.

The oldest known beehives date from 900 BCE and were found in the ancient city of Rehov in Israel.

What significant innovation vastly improved beekeeping?

The most important innovation in beekeeping was the incorporation of the “bee space” in hive design. The “bee space” is the space that is too far apart for bees to glue shut, but too narrow for them to bridge with comb. This design permitted the development of a hive with moveable frames, which led to significant increases in honey production per hive.

What are the essentials needed for urban beekeeping?

Besides the bees and hives, the urban beekeeper needs to be near a flower and water source. The bees make honey by collecting nectar, which is essentially a dilute sugar water. The bees also obtain their other nutritional needs from the flowers’ pollen, which they also collect.

What are the challenges to urban beekeeping?

A major challenge to urban beekeeping is the legal system. Many communities have zoning laws that prohibit livestock from being raised, and some zoning boards consider bees livestock. In many parts of the country, beekeepers and would be beekeepers are asking zoning boards to change zoning laws to permit bees.

Urban beekeepers also need to educate their neighbors about bees. Many people do not understand the difference between a bee and wasp. Sometimes, when people get stung they assume it was their neighbors’ bee that was the offending insect. This has even led to lawsuits between neighbors. Urban beekeepers need to show their neighbors the gentle nature of bees and lessen the fear that some people might have towards the insects.