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World Bee Day: Exploring a rooftop hive in Milwaukee

Posted at 3:36 PM, May 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-20 16:36:54-04

MILWAUKEE — May 20 is officially recognized by the United Nations as World Bee Day. We celebrate all things pollinators today because they truly have a global impact.

In fact, according to the USDA, about 1 in every 3 bites we take is thanks to a bee.

“Billions of dollars worth of agriculture and most of the plant life that we see around us is provided by these bees. So if they go, life as we know it will be severely changed," Charlie 'CharBee' Koenen, a prominent Milwaukee beekeeper, said. He also started the bee advocacy group, Beevangelists.

CharBee has rooftop hives all around Milwaukee. In each of them are thousands of bees. You would never know that the hives are there. The bees come and go as they please.

"So even the beekeepers that keep bees out in the field will steadily be happy with 60 pounds of honey. Whereas we can get as much as 200 pounds," he said.

That's because there is greater biodiversity in the city than in a large farm. It can be hard to imagine, but the city has a vast variety of flowers and trees that many monocultural commercial agricultural spaces don't have. Think of all the community and home gardens in a city that boast an array of plant life.

While the bees are buzzing on the rooftops, overall the population is dwindling.

“We should be totally worried about it," he said.

Especially since bees are global pollinators.

"Gathering pollen on their bodies and jumping from bloom to bloom, they help those plants reproduce and make the world what it is," CharBee said.

There are easy ways you can help, though. You don’t need to start an urban beehive like him on top of a roof. Buy diverse native plants for your garden. Let the dandelions live. Bees like them. Don't use harmful chemicals in your garden. Even by shopping for local produce you can help. Buying from farmers who are sustainably growing food helps bees thrive too.

Some other fun facts: they only live up to 45 days in the summer, they gather just 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in a lifetime, and there are around 20,000 bee species in the world.

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