Bees at Washoe County Courthouse in Reno

In the heart of downtown Reno, on Virginia Street, a peculiar yet fascinating feature on the Washoe County Courthouse has caught the attention and curiosity of passersby for years. What appears to be a mere black blotch from a distance is, in fact, a beehive that has been part of the building’s facade since possibly the 1940s. This beehive, now empty, tells a tale of a time when honeybees were not just tolerated but welcomed in both rural and urban settings, seen as harbingers of prosperity and essential contributors to the local ecosystem.

The courthouse beehive is not just an oddity; it is a testament to the longstanding relationship between humans and honeybees, a relationship that predates modern concerns over bee populations and their critical role in pollination. Dave Solaro, Washoe County’s Director of Community Services, reminisced about the beehive’s history, highlighting its benign presence and the benefits it brought to the downtown ecosystem without posing any safety threat to the courthouse’s human occupants. The bees’ presence, Solaro noted, is something the county would welcome back, underlining a philosophy of coexistence and support for local biodiversity.

The absence of bees in the hive for the past few years raises concerns, mirroring broader anxieties over the decline of bee populations worldwide. Leonard Joy, Vice President of the Northern Nevada Beekeepers Association, pointed out the adaptability of the European honey bee, emphasizing its inclination to nest in elevated locations to evade ground-level hazards like snow. This adaptability is evident in the bees’ choice of the courthouse for their hive, underscoring the fact that urban environments can, indeed, support wildlife.

However, the recent vacancy of the hive highlights the challenges faced by bees today, from mites to habitat loss, underlining the importance of efforts to protect these crucial pollinators. Joy remains optimistic, expecting that the unobstructed cavity of the courthouse beehive will soon attract another swarm, a hope that echoes the broader desire for the resurgence of bee populations in urban and rural areas alike.

How have the bees been received by the courthouse staff?

They’ve always been a welcome addition to the courthouse. However, about five years ago, we had an incident where one of our employees was allergic to bees and they wanted to remove that hive. And it became pretty political, and it actually went to the commissioners, and they said, “No, the beehive is going to stay right where it’s at.” It’s still there today. source: https://renonr.com/2019/06/05/accidental-beekeeper/

Honeybee hives at Washoe County Courthouse in Reno

 

This story of the courthouse beehive goes beyond mere curiosity; it is a narrative that prompts reflection on our relationship with nature, particularly in urban settings. It underscores the need for spaces like the Honeybee Observatory, offering safe havens for these essential creatures and opportunities for people to connect with and understand the vital role of honeybees in our world. There was a time when honeybees were seen as a blessing, vital to food supply and garden prosperity—a sentiment that, with increasing awareness and efforts towards sustainability, is finding resonance once again in our communities.

In a time when environmental concerns are more pressing than ever, the story of the Washoe County Courthouse beehive serves as a reminder of the delicate balance between human development and natural ecosystems. It calls on us to foster environments where such coexistence is not just possible but celebrated, for the health of our planet and future generations.