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Brookline Buzzing With Proposed Apiary

“Hives are a wise use of green space. They are a help to the environment and they add diversity to the community, in terms of how different plots of land are used.”

The South Pittsburgh Development Corp. may be on to a honey of deal.

The non-profit has maintained property at Jacob and Whited streets as green space for over a decade.

But with grant money that helped maintainence becoming harder to come by, Bob Beiler, the group's property chair, was looking for a way to continue its maintenance. 

Enter Steve Repasky, the community apiary director for Burgh Bees, a non-profit organization which aims to spread beekeeping throughout the Pittsburgh area by, among other things, establishing apiaries where beehives are kept.

After the success of their first community apiary in the Homewood area, Burgh Bees was looking to establish another in the southern part of the city.

Repasky, of Dormont, gave a presentation to city councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, who referred him to Nathan Mallory, owner of , which is involved in a number of community projects.

"It's just pretty exciting that we may have community apiaries," said Rudiak, who has tasted honey from Repasky's bees. "It's really amazing and really tasty."

“It seemed like something that would work,” said Mallory. “That’s part of what we’re trying to do at the coffeehouse — taking a mass of people and offering them a way to be involved in their community.”

Mallory brought together Repasky and Beiler, who found in each other a solution to their dilemmas. 

“I thought it fit very well,” said Beiler. “It’s a great idea.”

“Primarily (the proposed apiary) will be used as an education center, and to have a site where city residents can have a beehive of their own, whether they live in an apartment or their yard is too small, whatever the situation may be,” said Repasky.

After start-up fees, which could total up to $5,000, the upkeep costs will be minimal, according to Repasky. 

“All of the work, keeping the hives, mowing the grass et cetera, will be done by our people,” he said. “We have a large and dedicated group of volunteers, although we could always use more.”

The apiary would allow interested residents to sponsor a beehive, or even host one on their own property.

“If we find a homeowner who says ‘I’ll pay the fee if you can find a beekeeper that will bring a hive here and manage it,’ we’ll team them up,” Repasky said. “We’ve found a few people, the interest is definitely there.”

According to Repasky, Burgh Bees, which trained over 175 new beekeepers in the last two years, is needed in this area now more than ever. The honeybee population has decreased 30 to 50 percent a year for the past three to five years.

“A third of the food we eat is made possible by the efforts of honeybees,” he said. “And people with gardens will see the most benefit of an increased population.”

Repasky has a hive in his backyard. 

"My neighbor told me that he used to have to hand pollinate all of his plants with a paint brush,” he said. “After I moved in he told me the following summer that not only did he not have to hand pollinate, but he had more fruits and vegetables than he knew what to do with.

“People are finally realizing that honeybees are a good thing to have around,” he said. “Hives are a wise use of green space. They are a help to the environment and they add diversity to the community, in terms of how different plots of land are used.”

tom March 26, 2012 at 11:23 AM
I know of a few residents living near the proposed site that don't want the bee hives due to allergies.
Erin Faulk March 26, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Hi Tom, Thanks for sharing! That's a valid concern, and one that was addressed at last week's community meeting by Steve Repasky, master beekeeper and founder of Burgh Bees. A few people raised the same concern at that meeting. Steve's basic point was that you won't notice any more bees in the air than you normally would, and that because these are honey bees—not yellow jackets, or other aggressive types of bees prone to attack stinging—they aren't going to attack and sting. He said honey bees won't sting unless their safety is compromised, and they die after stinging once. And hopefully this will lift some concerns—I was at the Homewood apiary for an hour last week to take photos. It's a very controlled setting, and you can't even see bees unless you're standing within the walls of the apiary. Honey bees crawled all over my camera while I was there. I wasn't wearing gloves, and I never got stung. That said, if you have other concerns about the apiary, South Pittsburgh Development Corporation has invited residents to voice these concerns at local meetings. The SPDC meetings are the third Monday of each month. Thanks!

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