The possible presence of beekeeping grounds in Brookline has residents buzzing, and at last week’s South Pittsburgh Development Corporation meeting, an expert was on hand to address concerns.
Although several residents at the meeting spoke in favor of the proposed apiary——some residents also said they had worries.
“I just don’t see that this is a good thing to have in the city where there are so many houses,” said David Gumber, a Brookline resident who lives near the vacant property at Jacob and Whited Street, where the apiary would be located. “This isn’t the country. There’s a lot of houses and a lot of people and I don’t feel it’s right.”
Residents also shared concerns about swarming bees, and three parents at the meeting voiced concerns for children with allergies who could experience anaphylactic shock if stung.
Others, such as Emily Miller, an employee at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, spoke in favor of the project. Miller said she lived near the site of the Homewood apiary maintained by Burgh Bees, and had never noticed bees in her neighborhood.
Another couple said they would welcome the presence of more bees in Brookline, because it would help pollinate their vegetable gardens. One woman said she didn’t like bugs, but was learning to educate herself and become more accepting.
“Yes, there’s fears, but we can’t let those fears take down what’s important,” she said. “Education is key in this. My kid could go out in the front yard and step on something.”
Steve Repasky, a master beekeeper, wildlife biologist and a founder of Burgh Bees, said that even with the addition of an apiary at the Jacob/Whited site, residents would not likely notice any more bees in the area than they do now.
There also are several misconceptions about honeybees that are unfairly attributed to the species, he said.
Swarms are not a danger, he said, because when honeybees swarm they are looking for a new home—they are not planning to attack. He said honeybees do not attack, and normally only sting when their safety is immediately threatened. The purpose of a beekeeper is to prevent swarms from happening in the first place, he said.
“It’s like having wild dogs,” he said. “They’re dangerous because no one is managing them, but that’s what we’re doing here. These are managed. We don’t want to divide a community here. We want to bring people together.”
Unmanaged bees and bee hives already are in the area and are more dangerous, Repasky said. Wasps, yellow jackets and hornets—the bees that sting the most—would not be included in the apiary and would exist in the area with or without its presence.
The apiary site would serve as a beautification area that would include landscaping and short walking trails. Volunteer opportunities would be available through the site and residents would be able to buy and learn to keep their own beehives there.
A small parking lot would be constructed at the site, which also would open it up to educational classes or school field trips, Repasky said.
SPDC member Nathan Mallory said many people in the community already have shown interest in buying hives and taking part in honeybee keeping themselves.
“It’s a sensitive issue, but with the property, right now it’s acres of unrestricted land,” Mallory said. “I have list of 35 people who want to work on the garden there, and those people all live in Brookline. It’s not a forced hand. It’s something the community has taken an interest in and wants to learn more about.”