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Organic Consumers Association

Campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy
OCA's Save the Bees Campaign

Seattle Urban Beekeeping Builds A Buzz

The other day I found myself watching bee videos on YouTube. I watched as a friend who is a new beekeeper set up her first hive with the help of her neighbor. She had all the beekeeper gear on while her neighbor (a more experienced beekeeper) did not. I watched as she set up her hive, carefully took out the queen and placed her within the hive walls before placing sugar water for the bees. Right there, I was hooked. I told my family that I wanted to become a beekeeper. My husband may have told me to slow down and to first do some research before committing to beekeeping. It was through my research that I found out that one can host a bee hive in their yard without having to actually commit to beekeeping. I’ll be the first to admit that I have a lot of hobbies and I’m not sure that I’m ready for another one but I am interested in helping the bees.

I contacted Corky Luster with the Ballard Bee Company to find out more about hosting beehives and how someone like me could get involved. Luster has owned the Ballard Bee Company for over six years and has been keeping bees since the 80s. About 10 years ago, he began hearing the reports over bee colonies disappearing and decided to set up some hives to help the bee population. His two hives quickly grew to 8 and he started looking for other places to keep his hives. Luster began his bee hive hosting program in 2010 and now has over 130 hives around Seattle and out into Carnation.

The Ballard Bee Company hosting program does come with a fee which covers Luster’s time with the bee hives, equipment and other miscellaneous costs. In exchange, hive hosts receive two jars of honey during bee season, bee education, pollination benefits of honeybees in your yard and discounts from the Ballard Bee Company. I asked Luster what makes a good yard for bee hive hosting and he said he looks for easy access to the yard along with how shaded it is along a good variety of plants and if what the terrain is like within a mile of the yard. Bees tend to stick within a mile of their hives though they can go up to six miles away. He does eliminate yards with pools as the bees and water don't get along terribly well. Luster visits the hives about 1-2 times a week during bee season and lets them go dormant during the winter months.

I asked Luster how the Seattle region is for a beekeeper and he said, “Seattle is a great place for bees and bee keepers. It’s very supportive.” Ballard Bee Company also sells beekeeping supplies (from frames to hives to bees), supplies honey to local retailers and provides education for current and future bee keepers through classes.

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