Bees Come Home to Brooklyn

Beekeeping on a Brooklyn Rooftop

Happy Earth Day! Since it is Earth Day, I thought it would be appropriate to share my recent experience hiving my newly acquired bees. After preparing the hive for its new occupants, I was more than ready to meet the ladies! On a very chilly Easter Sunday, together with my bee partner, we picked up our package of bees from our beekeeping instructor, who had driven all the way to Georgia and back with bee packages for some of the New York City Beekeeping Association members. After watching one package installed in a hiving demonstration in a Manhattan community garden, we drove our package to Brooklyn to introduce the bees to their new hive.

FIRST ROW
1 Our package of bees. Three pounds of docile Italian honeybees, about 10,000, all clustered around the queen, who lives in a tiny cage until the colony has accepted her. (She was bred separately from the other bees, and it takes a few days for them to adjust to her pheromone.)
2 This is the queen cage. The queen has a blue dot painted on her thorax (this is just to help us identify her). She travels with a few attendant bees who feed and clean her.
3 We suspend the queen cage between two frames in the hive. There's a sugar plug in one end of her tiny cage. The bees will eat away at the sugar until she's free. This slow release of the queen allows the hive to get used to her pheromone.
4 This was the nerve-wracking part. Turning the package over and dumping all the bees into the hive.
5 We had a few casualties, but most of the bees made it out! We put sugar water into the feeder and closed up the hive. The bees needed at least one full week to get used to their new home.

SECOND ROW
6 This is our first look at the hive after one nail-biting week. You can see the queen cage hanging between the frames. She made it safely out of the cage! We removed the cage and replaced one of the frames.
7 We peer into the hive to get a look at the work that's going on.
8 Here's some bees hard at work on this frame, their first order of business is to draw out the wax foundation into honeycomb so that the queen can lay eggs in the honeycomb cells.
9 The hive is closed until it's time for the another inspection.


In my last bee post, there was some concern about stinging. I thought it might be interesting to get some facts about bees.

BEE REALITIES
If honeybees did not exist, we sure would have a hard time finding something to eat. We are dependent on the pollination of the honeybee for the food we eat. In the United States alone, the bee population is needed to pollinate 130 crops worth $15 billion. In the United States, there has been an overall decline of pollinators. Beekeeper work to insure the survival of the disappearing bees by providing a home (hive) for a managed bee colony and working to see that colony thrives.

You might be wondering if you'll see more of these New York City bees. Because most of the bees in New York are hives on rooftops or in community garden, you probably won't notice any more honeybees than usual. Keep in mind that these are docile honeybees, who are looking for flowers not people. In fact, these Italian honeybees are are essentially domesticated animals that have been bred for hundreds of years for their docility.

Bee Sting Info:
We repeat: Honeybees Do Not Pursue Humans. Honeybees are only looking for pollen or nectar. If you are not looking inside a bee hive, you are unlikely to get stung. Everybody reacts in some way to stings. Most swell around the stung area. That's NOT the same as a systemic allergy. In fact, less than 1 percent of the population has a systemic allergy to bee stings. If you have been diagnosed by a doctor with systemic allergy to bees, you should carry a bee sting kit. (However even this doesn't necessarily prevent you from interacting with bees. One of the core members of the New York City Beekeeping Association has been diagnosed with a systemic bee sting allergy. Armed with an Epi-pen, she just got her first hive this spring!)


We noticed that even Anthropologie is getting in on the beekeeping bandwagon, they're promoting bees on their site as their Earth Day initiative!