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Beekeepers Spring into Action: Honey Bees are Gaining Popularity Across the Country

First Posted: Apr 24, 2013 09:19 AM EDT

Even as their numbers decline, honeybees are becoming more and more popular among backyard beekeepers. In fact, beekeeping classes are filling up across the country as more people decide that they want to have a hand in raising their own food.

The phenomenon of backyard gardening isn't anything new. Most people have a small vegetable or herb garden for cooking; what is unusual, though, is the rise of keeping what are traditionally thought of as farm animals. For example, urbanites in New York are actually keeping chickens in order to gather their own eggs. It's hardly surprising that this push to grow food has now extended to bees.

In 2012, the Arkansas State Plant Board counted 1,850 registered beekeepers in the state--that's a huge jump from the 1,335 registered users just five years before, according to Carroll County News. It's not just Arkansas, either. People around the country are getting in on the action. In Maine, a new class of beekeepers has just finished a course in how to care for the insects. And in Oregon, bees are being kept on the roof of New Seasons Market's Happy Valley store. There's even a push in New York City to keep bees on rooftop gardens in order to help with pollination and to create honey.

While the interest in growing food is certainly on the rise, so is the news about the plight of the honeybee. More than 30 percent of honeybees vanish each spring. Yet this year, disappearing honeybees have come to an all-time high. More than half of all honeybees in the U.S. have died almost at once.

"These stories often commented on the importance of honeybees for our food supply and environment," said Jon Zawislak, apiculture instructor and bee expert for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service, in an interview with Carroll County News. "At the same time, our culture seemed to have a revived interest in organic and locally produced food. This combination of people wanted to know where their food came from and a sudden realization that an integral link in the food chain, pollinators, was weakening caused many people to wonder how they can help the honeybees."

It's perhaps unsurprising that the public hopes to revitalize the honeybee by actually keeping them in their backyards. The insects are major pollinators of crops, including everything from apples to cucumbers. Preserving these species will help keep the food industry a bit stronger.

"The rapid decline of honeybees concerns us all, and it's a problem for our growers and local gardeners," said Mark Feuerborn, the Happy Valley New Seasons' manager, in a press release.

Fortunately, it seems like that problem may be helped with the influx of beekeepers. As spring finally appears, people are learning more about these insects and how to keep them.

Want to learn more about beekeeping? Check out the video below, courtesy of YouTube.

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