You might be wondering why someone in an urban setting would need to be concerned about raising honey bees. While honey bees are not native to North America, once they were brought here by the Colonists in the 1600's, they rapidly migrated across the continent and became an integral part of the agricultural fabric of America.
Honey bee pollination of our crops is estimated to be responsible for every third bite that we eat. So without these important pollinators, our food choices at the grocery store would look quite different.
In the 1980's, a new pest, called the varroa mite, began affecting the health of the honey bee colonies. There has also been a rise in a new class of pesticides called neonicotinoid as well as GMO crops that have made beekeeping more challenging. These have been blamed as the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon where the worker bees suddenly abandon their hive that is full of honey and baby larval bees.
These new pressures have resulted in fewer wild colonies of honey bees in an area to pollinate the crops and gardens. Also the reduction in wildflower borders along highways and cultivated fields have reduced the amount of natural forage that honey bees and other pollinators can use to feed their young.
All of these contributing factors have led to a decline in the honey bee population. Backyard beekeepers can help in the effort to boost the numbers by not only keeping a beehive on their property but also by planting ornamental shrubs and by limiting the amount of chemicals that they use in their yard.