Library beehives example of resurgence in beekeeping

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SALT LAKE CITY -- In the heart of Utah's most urban setting you'll find something quite unexpected. It's a bit of experiment that is literally taking off.

There's often a steady migration to the fifth floor of the Salt Lake City Library -- of both children and bees.

"It's cool," says Nicolas Moore.

Up on the roof, not far from huge air conditioning units, is a rooftop garden and a pair of beehives -- new this summer.

"The great thing is that we have these hives placed just inches away from two large windows on the fifth floor of the library, so people can really get up close to the bees -- just a few inches away, really -- and see their activity," says library Beth Elder.

The kids are mesmerized.

"They pollinate trees, flowers and plants, and that's pretty cool," Nicholas says.

Adults become quite mesmerized as well, like Salt Lake City Council Chairman J.T. Martin, who has seen the benefits of bees in his own backyard.

Conditions for Residential Beekeeping:
  • Beekeeper must register with the Utah Dept. of Agriculture
  • Hives must be in side or rear yard
  • Bees permitted:common Honeybee (Apis mellifera) at any stage of its life, exluding the African Honeybee (Apis mellifera scutellata) and any hybrids
  • Hives must have removeable frames
  • Hives must be five (5) feet from property line
  • Bees must have easy access to water on owner's property
  • Hives must be placed so that general flight patterns avoid contact with humans and domestic animals
  • Hive must be maintained according to Utah Bee Inspection Act
-Salt Lake City

"Now that I have beehives in my yard, you wouldn't believe the pears hanging off this tree. I mean, it is just full of pears," Martin says.

He encouraged the city to lift a restriction on backyard bees, and the library to add bees to its educational offerings.

"I just said, ‘You know, we've gotta get this situation fixed," Martin says.

The councilman also enlisted a beekeeper friend, Frank Whitby, to manage the tens of thousands of bees.

"The bees are thriving on the roof of the library," Whitby says. "They're hoarding honey, which is their natural instinct."

The resurrection of beekeeping could serve a very important purpose: to help save honeybees around the country and around the world.

Bee populations -- vital to pollination of food crops -- are declining, plagued by a variety of maladies like colony collapse disorder, which is caused by assorted environmental stresses.

"I feel that urban beekeepers and backyard beekeepers can do a great service to the world by acting as a reservoir of healthy bees," Whitby says.

The library's beekeeper says stinging is not a major problem unless the hive is disturbed and becomes agitated. Just in case, the hive is kept in an area that can only be accessed by library staff.



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