It's a win-win for honey bees and city dwellers, but what about the honey itself? How does it stack up to the rural honey sold by individual beekeepers or the commercial honey sold in stores?
Here's the first big surprise. Despite city smog and pollution, urban honey often has less toxins than commercially produced honey. This is because rural bees are exposed to large tracts of agricultural land treated with pesticides and chemical fertilizers. When it comes to honey bees trucked in to pollinate large crops, this type of exposure is expected, but almost all rural bees deal with this when their hive is located in proximity to agricultural land. Because of this, even honey produced by independent beekeepers can contain some level of toxicity, though no honey has ever been found to have a level harmful to humans, regardless of where the worker bees forage.
Toxins aren't a major factor in urban honey, but how does it taste?
Well, here's your second big surprise. Though it may seem counterintuitive, many people actually like the taste of urban honey better. The reason is simple. Commercially produced honey usually depends on worker bees gathering nectar from one large crop. Honey made from a single crop always has a simple, predictable taste, regardless of whether it's almond trees, orange blossoms, clover or anything else.
Unlike their commercially employed relatives, urban honey bees have an entirely different way to source nectar and pollen. They take whatever they find, wherever they find it. Everything is fair game, from city parks to patios to floral shops. This means the flavor profile of honey produced by urban bees is much more complex and often has subtle notes and undertones, similar to well-crafted wine.
One of our Tapcomb® team members swears the best honey she ever tasted was being sold on a street corner in San Francisco. Made by bees in the city, it was particularly floral and complex. If you have a chance to taste urban honey, do so. You'll be surprised at the range of flavors that hit your palette.
If you make your home in the city, you might want to set up a rooftop beehive to get a taste of your neighborhood in a very real way, but check with your local beekeepers association first. It's the best way to find out if there are any regulations in your area.
If you're ready to become the caretaker of an urban colony, the Tapcomb® hive is a complete honey flow system, great for bees and beekeepers alike. Our 101 Guide should also be read by anyone interested in taking the next step.