When Michelle Obama gave her thumbs up to an organic garden at the White House, complete with two bee hives, amateur beekeepers around America took notice.
“The inclusion of two beehives in the White House garden sends a very powerful message about the importance of bees to our food supply,” says Karen Wasmer of K&W Apiary, a mentor to new beekeepers who became a beekeeper to aid in the pollination of her organic crops. “I look forward to mentoring more new beekeepers,” says Ms. Wasmer, who offers classes to beekeepers as young as age 10 through the Northeast Florida Honey Bee Association.
“Local beekeeping is the vibrant point where environmentalism, gardening and the local food movement intersect,” says Guillermo Fernandez of The Honeybee Conservancy, a charitable environmental organization working to protect bees. “Nearly one-third of the United State’s crops rely on bees for pollination, yet close to one-fourth of the nation’s commercial honey bees have vanished in recent years. Americans in cities from New York to Los Angeles, have flocked to the idea of small-scale beekeeping as a way to help save our bees and—like the Obamas—to pollinate their crops and generate some free local honey in the process!”
A new underground environmental movement has been afoot in communities across America: beekeeping. Membership in amateur beekeeping groups on social networking sites like Meetup.com and Yahoo Groups have been surging in cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Amateur beekeepers across the U.S. have recently lobbied to overturn city ordinances outlawing beekeeping. As a result of lobbying, beekeeping was decriminalized in Denver during November 2008. In New York City, beekeepers and food activists have been working with the City Council to pass a law legalizing beekeeping in The Big Apple.
“We have been seeing a huge uptick in our beginning classes since 2008” says Leslie Huston, a beekeeper and representative from Bee-Commerce, a national beekeeping supply store located in Weston, CT. “People are beekeeping as a way to help the bees and to pollinate their gardens. Business has been good, which in this economy is great.”