The Saturday Evening Post

The Accidental Beekeeper

As the mild San Francisco morning sun fills the back of my station wagon, I wrestle with two stacked boxes buzzing with a low hum. I can’t afford to slip or drop them: Inside is a colony of honeybees.

Until recently I was a helpless city slicker, prone to startling and swatting at anything buzzy. I couldn’t even tell a bright yellowjacket from a striped honeybee. Yet here I am, veiled and covered up, hugging two supers — wooden boxes making up a hive — full of bees, wax, and honey. I’m now one of many amateur beekeepers fostering the winged creatures in urban and suburban communities around the country.

Numbers vary widely from study to study, some citing upwards of 120,000 Americans looking after honeybees on rooftops and in backyards. There may be no way to compute an accurate number, according to Dr. Dewey M. Caron, a University of Delaware entomologist, but nonprofessional beekeepers are thought to own up to 10 percent of all bee colonies. “Now, that may not sound significant,” he says, “but backyard beekeepers are some of the most active individuals in influencing legislators and policymakers. They serve a crucial part in maintaining bee populations.”

I had no eureka moment or activist manifesto. Over the years I read about the bee’s crucial role in pollination — and therefore human survival — and slowly began daydreaming about lending them a spot

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