In contrast to the rural bee populations decimated by colony collapse disorder, bees are thriving in cities worldwide. The more than 400 hives of Paris are not only seemingly immune to population problems, but they’re more productive than rural hives.
As Guillaume Charlot of the association L’Abeille de Grand Paris (The Bee of Greater Paris) told the BBC, an urban hive produces on average 50kg (110lb) to 80 kg of honey per year, while “a country bee-keeper is happy if he gets 30″.
Why such a difference? Some hypothesize that productivity (and colony collapse disorder) is affected by pesticides. There’s also the issue of monocropping in rural environments. “In the countryside,” explains Charlot, “these days there is often just one crop dominating an entire area. When that has finished blossoming, there is no more nectar for the local bees”.
Urban beekeeping is just as popular in the U.S. In March of 2010, New York City overturned a ban on urban hives (disregarded by many undercover beekeepers) and in San Francisco the number of beekeepers jumped from 50 a decade ago to about 2000 in 2010 (according to estimates of Paul Koski, secretary of the San Francisco Beekeepers Association).
In this video, we visit one San Francisco beekeeper who keeps her hive in a Bernal Heights backyard. Here Alexandra Danieli escapes once a week to check on her colony. For Danieli, beekeeping is part meditation and part fascination with a magical world of GPS, honing pheromones and group intelligence.