TRACKING THE FUTURE OF CITIES
Beekeepers in LA can finally join their counterparts in London, Toronto and Paris and reap the sweet rewards of this booming practice.
Leave it to Southern California to once again lead the way (in the US at least) in smart urban environmental policies. Just last year we saw the city of Los Angeles ban single-use plastic bags (implementation is underway at this very moment) with the entire state of California planning to follow suit shortly.
This time Los Angeles is removing a long-standing ban on urban bee-keeping, still illegal in much of the US. Not that the ban was really of much concern to LA’s underground beekeeping community, including one Rob McFarland (below), founder of HoneyLove.org who’s kept around 25,000 of the honey-producing critters on his West-LA roof top for the past three years.
But the move is symbolic, with many seeing urban bee-keeping as a potential (if partial) remedy to the bee die-offs and bee colony collapse disorder that’s swept across the US and Europe, threatening crops and worrying the begesus off agricultural and food security experts.
Paul Koretz, councilman for Los Angeles City Council, says:
This puts our long-term food security at risk because pollinators are vital to our food supply. One-third of what we eat is due to pollinators, and they are a key to our agricultural industry.
While urban bees may never replace the billions necessary to keep the farms which produce the majority of our polinated food going, they can still be a great benefit to local environments.
Besides producing honey, experts say urban bees can pollinate local gardens, helping green their city, and can boost the booming urban agriculture movement. There’s also anecdotal evidence that urban bees are healthier and produce honey with higher yields than their counterparts in rural areas. This could be because they are less exposed to pesticides and herbicides in cities, and because the diversity of plants is much greater, which might explain why Jean Paucton’s honey (keep reading) tastes so different from the store-bought variety.
And it’s not just in Los Angeles where people are getting excited about bees. London and New York, with over 3000 and 400 apiaries respectively in places as varied as the London Stock Exchange and the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, are considered the global hubs of urban bee keeping, often with co-operation between local cooperatives and big businesses getting things off the ground.
In Toronto, home to over 100 apiaries including ones on the rooftops of the opera house and Casa Loma, the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in the city’s downtown has been keeping bees since 2008, making it the world’s pioneering hotel apiary.
Established in partnership with the Toronto Beekeepers Cooperative and Food-Share and producing a record-breaking 800 lbs of honey from six of its rooftop bee hives in 2011, the Fairmont chain has expanded the programme and now boasts over 2 million bees at 22 of its hotels across Canada, the US, China and Kenya.
In Paris, Jean Paucton, a former prop-man at the Opera House, set up his hives twenty years ago on the roof of the Opera after taking a beekeeping course at the Société Centrale for apiculture.
Calling the end product “no ordinary honey, with notes of lemon and mint,” Paucton now sells what is quite possibly the world’s most expensive honey, selling for as much as 120 euros/kilo in some shops (or 4.50 euros for 125 grams if you happen to catch him at the Eiffel Tower!)
The finished product:
Thanks to Eric Tourneret for the photos. For more Paris bee & honey stories, click here.