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Urban Beekeeping by Michael Kiefer

In addition to urban beekeeping, Michael, also runs GreenDCRealty, an occasional PoP advertiser. All photos by Fritz Hubig

So what’s all the buzz about urban beekeeping these days you might be wondering and what causes someone to raise some 150,000 bees in the backyard of their DC home. Well its a tough question to answer but as most beekeepers myself included will tell you, we simply find the ability and act of being a hobby apiculturist as a way to reconnect with nature in a way that doesn’t always present itself via our daily lives in an urban setting. That being said opening a conversation at a Saturday evening house party in Columbia Heights with, “so as I was extracting honey today” tends to raise a few eyebrows and a pause in conversation as the first reply tends to be, “so what’s happening to all the bees?”

Honey bees are not an entirely new comer to my life as it has pretty much been an on and off again relationship over the past 17 years. Having spent 4 years of undergraduate studies within farming and beekeeping tends to leave one with only a few job prospects out there and even fewer in a city like DC. So somewhere around 4 years ago with my backyard garden at my home in the Woodridge neighborhood of NE DC not looking so hot I decided it was time for some divine intervention from Mother Nature and that I would set up my urban bee plot once again. I had been on the down-low all these years as it was a bit confusing as to what DC’s bee keeping policy really was. That all changed though when bees made their way to the White House, then the Fairmont Hotel got in the action and in March of this year DC Parks and Rec through Kelly Melstead and Tony Burnham the Districts resident beekeeper offered up an introductory course in beekeeping which has led to a whole new buzz so to speak as more trained hobbyists begin tending to bees across the District.

Continues after the jump.

Photo by Fritz Hubig

I know many people might find it intimidating thinking of the prospect of having some 150,000 bees as they walk out their backdoor but it is quite calming ( I am not allergic by the way ) to watch the bees as they fly to and from the hive allowing me to work with them, inspecting the hives for robbing ants and other types of bees. I have also set up my entire yard as an expirement in urban permaculture as I try to grow as much of my Spring / Summer / Fall produce which would be an even greater challenge without the bees. So the honey, how much do I get each year and where does it all come from many people ask me, well somewhere about 50 pounds a hive and with 3 hives that works out to quite a bit of sweet reward each year. Being that I am surrounded by forests and the National Arboretum only a stones throw away I see the bees flying directly to the Arboretum to find a different nectar each week, as it might be their heaven on earth, with hundreds of varieties of flowering plants and trees all around.

Photo by Fritz Hubig

My neighbors have come to refer to me as the farmer as I tend to ply them with equal amounts of honey and fresh produce since my bees do wander every now and again through their kitchen window. With a smile they often ask me what’s next on my farming agenda and I just nod with hmmm fresh eggs sure would be nice but we will have to work on some District policy before that happens!

Nearby Bee Farms

Photo by Fritz Hubig

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