About this time last year, I ordered a copy of The Urban Homestead by Los Angeles residents Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen. I wanted to take part in growing or raising some of my own food, but chickens or even dwarf goats are too big to incorporate into our lives. Then I got to the section on beekeeping — this is something New Yorkers could do. You don't need much space and it helps out the planet. To get started, we took a class with the New York City Beekeeper Association in February where we learned about all aspects of beekeeping, and ordered our hive and bees...The class was led by Andrew Cotes and his father Norm. Andrew, a fourth-generation beekeeper, manages the family business, Silvermine Apiary which produces honey sold at various NYC greenmarkets. Norm has been working with bee hives in Connecticut for many years (even working as Martha Stewart's beekeeper). The twelve-hour course went over all aspects of beekeeping. The photos are from our final class when we learned how to build our own hives. Then we were off to put into practice what we had learned!
The hive came in, what seemed like, hundreds of pieces. My friend and I assembled it using nails and wood glue. Then we put the wax foundation into each frame. (This gives the bees a head start on building their home.) Any part of the hive that would be exposed to the elements was primed and painted with two coats of white exterior paint. It was a long process. Luckily, this part only has to be done once. We hope our bees will live in their new home for many years. We pick up our bees on Sunday, so we'll let you know how they like their new home on a Brooklyn rooftop!
If you'd like to be involved in NYC beekeeping, there are two groups that you can join: The New York City Beekeeping Meetup Group and The New York City Beekeepers Association. Both groups offer hands-on activities so even if you don't have space for a hive, you can still work with one.
Currently beekeeping is illegal in New York City. Under Article 161 of New York City's Health Code, honeybees fall under the "wild animal" status along with hyenas, panthers, polar bears, apes... Unlike the other "wild animals" on the list, we're dependent on honeybees for pollination. Luckily, Brooklyn's councilman David Yassky recognizes the importance of the honeybee and supports legislation that will hopefully be passed to legalize beekeeping. To show your support of New York City bees (and their honey!), sign the Legalize Beekeeping in NYC Petition . Serious Eats produced a fantastic video on the importance of beekeeping. To read more about the effort to legalize bees, go to Just Food.