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Ginza Honey Bee Project

January 14, 2010

Ginza Honey Bee Project co-founder Atsuo Tanaka with some of the Ginza honeybees

In an area in Tokyo, Japan known for its glitz and glamourous shops, there is a newcomer: honeybees. The Ginza district is now home to roughly 300,000 honeybees who have taken up residence on the roof of the Pulp & Paper building. The building, which is often used for business meetings by the powerful is now more famous for the amount of honey that is produced and collected on its rooftop — in 2009, more than 760 kg!

So why, you ask, would honeybees thrive in a congested, downtown commercial area more so than say . . . the country? Pollution and smog are not necessarily the main threat to colonies of honey bees, mites and pesticides are. So if rice patties and other crops are spreading across the countryside, they are bringing pesticides and bee fatalities along with them.

One of the coolest results of this project is that the other building owners are beginning to plant rooftop gardens and flowers that will provide the nectar to nourish the Ginza bees and develop the honey. As a result of lobbying efforts by the Ginza honey bee project, volunteers are planting more greenery and flowers in places like Ginza Blossom, a wedding and party venue in the district.

And if you’re thinking that this sounds like a great project except that honey bees sting. . . don’t. They are generally very gentle creatures who only sting if suddenly surprised.

Ginza honey is maintained as a local specialty. A few stores carry sweets and even cocktails with the prized honey, especially during peak season (April-June).

So while honey bees may be struggling in more rural parts of Japan, they are surprisingly, very willing and content urban residents.

Read more about the project here

photos via The Japan Times Online; flickr user Eric Bégin

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