Big patches of dandelions and vast stretches of creeping Charliethat return each spring don’t bother Nathan Clarke.
The owner of mad Urban Bees welcomes the yellow and purpleblossoms that are among the first food for the hundreds of workerswho produce his spring honey.
Shoppers at Sunday’s third annual Close to Home: Arboretum LocalProducts Expo were abuzz about the light, floral flavor of Clarke’sraw, unfiltered Urban Honey made by bees that gather nectar fromMadison’s flowers, trees and gardens.
“Very good,” said Susan Fischer of Madison.
Like many others in the steady crowd of shoppers who perusedmore than 30 booths throughout the Arboretum’s Visitor Center, shewas drawn by the locally produced offerings.
“That has a lot of appeal to us,” said Fischer, who works inUW-Madison’s financial aid office.
Clarke, 35, who launched mad Urban Bees in July, has kept beesin his yard near Warner Park on Madison’s North Side for fiveyears.
Currently, he has just two hives. but come next year, Clarkehopes to tend up to 50 hives in backyards throughout the city as hecreates one of the first urban apiaries in the country.
“We’re about 40 percent there already,” he said.
He’s still working out the details, but one thing is certain:People who host hives will get honey in return.
Clarke will maintain the hives with his beekeeper’s suit andsmoker used to calm the bees. “My job is to make sure the bees arehappy,” he said.
The city is considering a law to require a license forbeekeeping. Clarke said he has been working with a committee tocreate an ordinance that will specify requirements for backyardbeekeeping.
Clarke started with one hive about the size of a card table. Butit was too small, and the bees swarmed, leaving the hive to start anew colony.
Clarke was able to capture the swarm in his neighbor’s yard andstart a second hive.
“The bees actually do really well in the city,” Clarke said.
“Bees have a huge variety of food in the city,” he said, addingthat what they eat makes a difference in how the honey looks andtastes.
His spring honey has a light golden color, while fall honey canbe dark as cola.
“I want to promote the seasonality,” Clarke said.
One hive can produce about 12 gallons of honey a year, hesaid.
Prices for Clarke’s Urban Honey range from $6 for 5 ounces to$15 for a 1-pound jar. It’s available at Bloom Bake Shop inMiddleton and soon will be available at www.madurbanbees.com, wheresupporters also can make donations toward hives, bees and equipmentfor the expansion project.
Corinna Gries, who just moved to Madison from Arizona, islooking forward to learning about keeping bees while hosting a hivefor Clarke.
“I’ve wanted them so bad, I just haven’t dared doing it,” saidGries, an information manager at UW-Madison.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Diane Hermann of Verona, whocame to the expo with her husband, Tom. “I’ve heard a lot about theproblem of the decimation of bees with their habitat.”
“Bees are in trouble,” Clarke said, adding, “Urban bees have thepotential to help out.”