Urban Beekeeping: a new buzz in Asian cities

Beekeeping on a Hong Kong Rooftop (Source: www.hkhoney.org)

Pacific Prospective features the research of graduate students.

Memo #224

By Hannah Smith – hannah.smith [at] alumni.ubc.ca

We need bees, but bees are dying. This is a global problem, but some Asian cities are finding novel solutions in urban beekeeping.

The humble Apis Mellifera punches well above its tenth of a gram weight. Through transferring pollen, bees are essential to 80% of the food we consume. Furthermore, the economic input from bees is substantial, with pollinated crops accounting for $1 trillion of the yearly agricultural produce sold.

However bees in every continent are in decline. Issues such as mites, rapid urbanization, and the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder, which is baffling scientists, all contribute to the global decline of a fundamental aspect of our ecosystem. Gradually international organizations are acting: the EU has recently implemented a two-year ban on suspected bee-killing pesticides, but such moves are both politically contentious and too often are poorly implemented.

Something more needs to be done.

Urban beekeeping is one answer, and Asia is taking a lead. In several Asian cities beekeeping is combined with business to provide a new method of sustaining bee populations and raising awareness of their decline as an environmental issue.

In Tokyo, bookstore chain Yaesu Book Center now has a roof apiary, and sells the produced honey in the store café. In Seoul, urban beekeeping movements offer wax candle making and educational classes whilst in Hong Kong urban beekeeper Michael Leung has a network of bee farms and a design studio where local honey is harvested and products and services related to urban beekeeping are designed.

These initiatives reconnect city dwellers with local beekeeping traditions (in Hong Kong, unlike Seoul and Tokyo for example, no protective clothing is worn) and increase environmentally friendly space in the city. Combining awareness raising measures with businesses selling local produce is a useful way of ensuring the sustainability of urban beekeeping and improving bee stocks, battling the “beepocalypse”.

Hannah Smith is an MA Asia Pacific Policy Studies candidate, and a Fellow, at the Institute of Asian Research, The University of British Columbia.

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Beekeeping on a Hong Kong Rooftop (Source: www.hkhoney.org)
Some foods pollinated by bees (Source: www.hkhoney.org)

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