Yes, we need urban beekeepers--it may even be time we put the bees in the "zoo" to protect them.
I recently listened to a TED talk by Noah Wilson-Rich who has a PhD in Honeybee Health. Basically he says that the city bees are faring better than their country cousins. Urban hives enjoy better survival rates and produce more honey than rural hives! He advocates green roofs and urban beekeeping to help save the bees.
Even though I don't have a PhD in anything, I have a little experience, and I've come to the same conclusion. Bees do better in the city. People in towns and cities plant lots of flowers, shrubs and trees in their yards, giving the bees a variety of nectar all spring, summer and fall. In the country, much of the bees' natural habitat has been eaten up by the monocultures of corn, soy and wheat fields with their shorter bloom times. So instead of their usual buffet of wildflowers, trees, vines and bushes, bees are fed systemic pesticides along with their cereal blooms in addition to the smorgasbord of chemicals used in no-till farming.
Persimmon Ridge Honey Farm has always had the advantage of being close to large areas of wild wooded land and to the Duck River corridor. Spring around here is an unruly tangle of maple, elm, cedar and persimmon trees as well as blackberry, honeysuckle and multiflora rose vines and a vast array of wildflowers. I never have to fee my bees! When they're healthy, they produce plenty of honey for themselves, for me, and for you, my customers.
What has changed in the past couple of years is the increasing agricultural activity in what was pasture on the farms around me. They're being plowed up for corn planting. GMO corn is king! So while the bees still have lots of wild food, they are opportunists and will check out any blooming plant--even one filled with deadly insecticide or one that is about to be sprayed with herbicides to ready the fields for no-till planting. The foraging bees are poisoned right along with the weeds and wildflowers.
So maybe urban beekeeping is the answer for now. Get the hives into the cities and away from the chemicals? It's what we've done with other endangered species--we put them in a zoo for their own good!