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Seattle's Urban Farmers Make The Jump to Beekeeping

The Seattle Times jumped onboard the hipster urban farming bandwagon in a big way and then upped the ante with a story on beekeeping this morning. It's a sort of natural step in the urban farming movement, and hobbyists have taken to the practice like... well, like a bee to brightly colored pollen-laden flowers, and the trend isn't slowing down. Shipments are made 1.9 million bees at a time to a garage in Bellevue, where they're distributed in groups of 10,000 to amateur beekeepers in neighborhoods ranging from Bryant to Ravenna. Bees have been in trouble for the last few years due to a disorder that causes their hives to fall apart (and for which nobody can find a legitimate cause), so hobbyists argue that they're doing the little guys a favor. That, and they get a ton of free honey.

Since reading a story all about bees might give you the heeby jeebies, we did the hard work for you and pulled out the choice material. For amusing quotes on smiling insects, marshmallows as prophylactics, and bee attacks, read on.
· Think of them like puppies. "'See the smiles on their faces?' she asked, holding up one of the wooden boxes, which had wire mesh on both sides. 'They're saying, 'Sylvia, we want to come home with you.''"
· Beekeeping, like craziness, runs in the family. (Not that the two are correlated.) "'Back then, that generation thought all beekeepers were nuts,' Rahr said. 'I remember them saying about my grandfather, 'There's that crazy guy, going to the bee yard.''"
· You're using a marshmallow to protect the queen from what, now? "When bees are dumped into their new hive, he said, what usually happens is that the owners will take out a cork in that smaller box and replace it with a bit of marshmallow. The worker bees will begin eating the marshmallow, and, in a few days, break through to the queen bee, who then comes out and starts laying eggs."
· To be fair, you can't argue with this math: "'I always tell people to start with two hives,' he said. 'If you only have one and something goes wrong, you've got a 100 percent failure rate.'"
· This hobby is not without its fair share of scary bee attacks. "'I was stung 50 times in the face, around the eyes, neck, nose, ears,' he said. 'It was obvious enough that one of the college instructors asked if I was OK.'"

Our verdict: Great for the strong-willed among us who aren't afraid of hoards of stinging, flying insects. Carry on then, beekeepers.

· Backyard Beehives the New Buzz in Town [Seattle Times]
· Photo by Puget Sound Beekeepers Association