Beekeeping Craze Not So Sweet Without Proper Precautions, Says Expert

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In this Aug. 7, 2019 photo, U.S. Army veterans Vince Ylitalo, left, and Wendi Zimmermann, back, check bees for disease and food supply at the Veterans Affairs' beehives in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
August 24, 2020
Some celebrities have found a sweet new hobby: beekeeping. 
"When you're going into the hives, you get a glimpse in and really see this intricate life that is beyond what we normally experience," said Elaine Evans, a bee researcher at the University of Minnesota. The work, she acknowledges, can be therapeutic.
However, bees are essential to our ecosystem as they "are pollinating the majority of our plants" and help provide some of our most essential foods like fruits and nuts.
There are some species of bees that are facing dwindling numbers, but honey bees, the type generally kept by beekeepers, are not one of them. In fact, Evans noted, "We have more honey bees on the landscape than ever before."
And that, she said, means that increased beekeeping particularly in major U.S. cities, though relaxing, is not the greatest way to protect the insects.
"By keeping honey bees, a lot of times there are not enough flowers out there and the honey bees can actually have a negative impact on those endangered bees that we're concerned about," she continued.
While there are more than 20,000 species of bees, the honey bee is the most commonly managed bee in the United States and Europe.
As more people explore the world of beekeeping Evans said there should be a clear understanding of the full scope of work it takes to maintain a colony of bees.
"If you're going to keep bees, keep in mind that it takes two million flowers to make one pound of honey," she explained. "Before you do beekeeping, you need to work on becoming a habitat restoration, garden expert, community activist — getting lots of habitats out there for bees in the area surrounding where you live."
Another major challenge in maintaining your own beehives, according to Evans, is keeping them healthy as they can "have more health problems than they ever did before."
For the diehard bee enthusiast, local beekeeping groups have also surged in popularity across major U.S. cities. These groups offer members a "chance to look into the beehives without having to own your own hives and add to the problem of there being too many honey bees on the landscape," Evans said. 
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