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Beekeeping in Rural and Urban Areas of Ohio

Honey bees across the United States are suffering as agricultural land is planted with crops less suitable for bees at the expense of and bee-sustaining crops like alfalfa and clover. Heightened interest in beekeeping has attracted new beekeepers, largely from urban areas. Urban beekeepers suffer higher rates of colony loss than their rural counterparts, which may be due to their inexperience or other factors in the urban landscape, such as toxic exposure or differences in flower availability.

Ohio State University entomologists, in cooperation with the Ohio State Beekeepers Association, compared flowers used by urban bees to flowers typically available in rural areas. They studied new beekeepers in urban, suburban, and rural Ohio to track colony productivity; colonies produced less honey as the landscape became more urban. Urban bees are less productive, likely due to a lack of flowers in Ohio cities in late-summer and fall.

Researchers also collected pollen from bees in urban and rural locations to identify which plants the bees visit in the late-summer and fall. Observation hives were placed on the edge of Columbus, Ohio, to determine whether bees would choose to forage in the suburban area or in the nearby corn and soybean fields outside of the city. When given a choice, honey bees forage on clover and goldenrod that are abundant in agricultural areas and avoid foraging in urban locations.

Honey bees and other pollinators are vital for the local production of fruits and vegetables as well as locally produced honey. As urbanization continues, expanding the urban bee-keeping market may be the key to honey bee survival. Encouraging cities to plant clovers and goldenrods will provide a greater source of pollen in the late-summer and fall, when forage is otherwise limited. Supportive plantings will increase the honey crop for beekeepers and provide honey bee colonies with the nutrition they need to prepare for and survive the winter season. Additionally, new education programs can help new improve colony success.

Providing foraging areas for pollinators will increase the number of pollinators in urban and suburban areas, which in turn increases the income of beekeepers. Since bees pollinate a large number of flowers and agricultural crops, it is expected that an increase in the bee population would lead to more successful farmers as well.

NIFA supports this research through Multistate Research Funds.

Read more at the Land-Grants Impact Database.

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Agriculture systems and technology;
Agriculture economics and rural communities
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