By Lani Furbank
Honeybees have been in the spotlight for the past several years because of national debates over pesticide safety, concern over colony collapse disorder, and more. This attention is much deserved, seeing as 35 percent of the world’s food crops depend on pollinators like bees, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Scientists estimate that one out of every three bites of food we eat wouldn’t exist without bees or other pollinators. So, it’s a little more than problematic that these species are in trouble. Instead of arguing over the cause or the consequences of the decline of honeybees, many New Yorkers are doing something about it by becoming beekeepers.
New York City is home to more than eight million humans, but it also supports hundreds of bee hives, each containing tens of thousands of busy pollinators. The New York City Food Policy Center at Hunter College has compiled a list of 11 rooftop and garden apiaries that are helping honey bees thrive, one season at a time.
Location: 156 Quincy Street, #1, Brooklyn, NY
Beekeepers: Ryan McCullough
Reason for founding: “I started beekeeping because of the struggle of the bees and I was curious.”
Number of hives: Six
Amount of honey produced: “The yield of honey varies with the weather. When the weather is dry during the summer, the bees eat the honey, which is why they make it. In winter, you need to leave 70 pounds of honey on the hive so they have winter food. They never sleep. They cluster, vibrate, and generate heat all winter, eating most of their stores by spring.”
Types of products: Raw, unpasteurized, single-hive honey and dried honey products
Unique aspect about process or beekeeping: “I don’t blend my honey with honey from other hives. Each hive makes its own flavor of honey.”
Where to find their products: Whisk in Brooklyn
Location: CT, NY, NYC
Beekeepers: Norm, Mike, Andrew, Patrick, Max Cote
Reason for founding: “Honey”
Mission: “Safe, responsible beekeeping and paying our bills”
Number of hives: “Hundreds”
Amount of honey produced: Not willing to share
Types of products: Raw unfiltered honey, varietal honey, whipped honey, comb honey, pollen, propolis, royal jelly, ambrosia, beeswax, candles, handmade soaps, live bees
Unique aspect about process or beekeeping: They also offer urban honey tours, swarm removal services, and bee consultations.
Where to find their products: Greenmarkets at Union Square (Wednesdays and Saturdays, 8am-6pm), Forest Hills (Sundays, 8am-3pm; Apr-Dec), and Tucker Square (Thursdays, 7am-5:30pm; Sep-Dec); and at retail locations, restaurants, and bakeries, including Stew Leonard’s, Whole Foods Market in Port Chester, Blue Hill, The Brooklyn Star, Café Boulud, Mari Vanna, Momofuku, Union Square Cafe, Bouchon Bakery, and more.
Beekeepers: Tim and Shelly
Reason for founding: “BoroughBees was founded to share knowledge and experiences about urban beekeeping.”
Mission: “Educate city citizens about the role of pollinators in an urban environment”
Number of hives: “About 10”
Amount of honey produced: Not willing to share
Types of products: “Education”
Unique aspect about process or beekeeping: “We focus on sustainable beekeeping with an eye towards education rather than honey production. We harvest for personal use and community sharing rather than sales.”
Where to find their products: Not for sale
Location: Multiple rooftops throughout Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens.
Beekeepers: Chase Emmons
Reason for founding: N/A
Mission: “While honey, hive products, and bees are our bread and butter, our core mission also includes spreading knowledge of these amazing creatures and increasing their numbers in the face of the chemical threat posed by commercial agriculture. Not only are we breeding local bees, we are breeding local beekeepers!”
Number of hives: “Approximately 30”
Amount of honey produced: “Several hundred pounds”
Types of products: Honey, honey whiskey in partnership with Kings County Distillery
Unique aspect about process or beekeeping: The apiary is spread out across rooftops in three boroughs. They offer a season-long beekeeping training program and workshops to train new beekeepers. And Brooklyn Grange offers hive installation and maintenance services for private and corporate clients in the tri-state area.
Where to find their products: Jars are available at their weekly farm stands: at their Long Island City rooftop farm (Saturdays from 11am-4pm; May-Oct) and McGolrick Park in Greenpoint (Sundays from 11am-4pm; May-Nov), and customized honey jars are available for weddings or special events by contacting [email protected].
Location: Hart to Hart Community Garden: 108 Hart Street, Brooklyn, NY and 280 Chester Street, Brooklyn, NY
Beekeepers: Margot Dorn
Reason for founding: “Interest in beekeeping”
Mission: “Education and Honey and wax production”
Number of hives: Seven
Amount of honey produced: “Not sure”
Types of products: Raw honey, lip balm
Unique aspect about process or beekeeping: “I work with adolescents in Brownsville to provide a mentorship program. This program build’s their scientific knowledge of beekeeping while allowing them to be entrepreneurs and build a business around the products of the hive.
Where to find their products: Retail locations include Greene Grape, Brooklyn Larder, Willoughby General, and Sahadi’s.
Location: “Whitney Museum of American Art rooftop in NYC, various estates in Westchester, and our own backyard”
Beekeepers: Charles Branch and Christine Lehner
Founded: “2004 in New York state, and moved to NYC in 2010 after beekeeping was legalized in the city”
Reason for founding: “The Let it Bee beekeepers always had a fascination with honeybees. They decided to take a beekeeping course and seriously pursue the venture in 2004.”
Mission: “To provide pure, raw, local honey, and to educate ourselves and others about bees and their importance, in the environment, in agriculture and in literature”
Number of hives: Two hives on the Whitney Museum rooftop, and about 25 more in Westchester
Amount of honey produced: “Depending on the nectar flow each season, we can produce about 1,000 pounds of pure honey.”
Types of products: Honey and beeswax
Unique aspect about process or beekeeping: “Because of their social nature, and the fact that they create a food craved, and needed, by humans, bees have been studied and written about for millennia.”
Where to find their products: Various Westchester stores, including eat local ny, Murray’s Cheese, Wave Hill Gift Shop, and more listed on their website.
Location: Douglaston, NY
Beekeepers: Ruth and Matthew Harrigan
Founded: October 2012
Reason for founding: “We created the beauty line to use as a vehicle to help in saving the bees by donating 1% of sales to 1% for the Planet.”
Mission: “To raise awareness of the vanishing of the bees as they are an integral part of our food supply”
Number of hives: 14 hives in Queens (Douglaston, Flushing, Bayside) and Staten Island
Amount of honey produced: “Varies from year to year. Approximately 400 pounds per year.”
Types of products: Lip balms, skin creams, lotions, shampoos, and body wash
Unique aspect about process or beekeeping: “One or two beehives are very manageable in a suburban backyard or rooftop. Beekeeping is seasonal from March to October in the NY metro region. It is not only a great hobby, but the bees are helping in pollinating trees and flowers in the area. Pure honey is the ultimate reward when the season comes to a close.”
Where to find their products: Products can be purchased through their website www.MeeBeauty.com and on Amazon.
Location: 73-50 Little Neck Parkway, Floral Park, NY
Beekeepers: Walter Blohm
Reason for founding: “To preserve and restore the last working farm in New York City”
Mission: “The mission of the Farm Museum is to preserve, restore, and interpret the site. Through educational programs, events, and museum services we educate the public as to the significance of Queens County’s agricultural and horticultural past and heighten awareness of present-day practices.”
Number of hives: Seven
Amount of honey produced: 600 pounds
Types of products: Raw wildflower honey
Unique aspect about process or beekeeping: “Beekeeper Walter Blohm has been managing our hives since 1979. We believe these are the longest commercially operated hives in New York City.”
Where to find their products: The farm’s gift shop.
Location: West 249th Street and Independence Avenue, Bronx, NY
Beekeepers: Charles Day
Founded: “I don’t know exactly, sometime in the 1990s – or possibly earlier.”
Reason for founding: “It fitted in with our environmental science education programs.”
Mission: “Wave Hill is a 28-acre public garden and cultural center in the Bronx overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades. Its mission is to celebrate the artistry and legacy of its gardens and landscapes, to preserve its magnificent views, and to explore human connections to the natural world through programs in horticulture, education and the arts.”
Number of hives: Two
Amount of honey produced: “Very little this year because they are new hives. In previous years, we have harvested a hundred pounds or more.”
Types of products: Honey
Unique aspect about process or beekeeping: They host a family-friendly Honey Weekend, which offers bee-related activities such as candle making and honey-extraction demonstrations. This year’s event takes place on October 1st and 2nd.
Where to find their products: On-site gift shop
Location: Various locations in Queens County
Beekeepers: Tom Wilk
Reason for founding: Wilk Apiary was founded to protect honeybees, to have a source of pure, natural, local honey, and to share information about honeybees with the people of Queens.
Mission: “Raise colonies of honeybees in an urban environment specifically different area and types of locations in Queens”
Number of hives: Seven apiaries with 32 hives
Amount of honey produced: “Depends on season. We hope to get 20-40 pounds per hive, but some don’t make any extra honey for us.”
Types of products: Natural raw honey
Unique aspect about process or beekeeping: Their hives are hosted by environmentally aware residents who are interested in protecting honeybees by offering their property as a hive location. “We also sell the honey bottled from a specific apiary. We list the zip code and town on the bottle as well as the month of harvest. This gives the aficionado a true taste of a very specific area (or at least its floral sources) at a specific time.”
Where to find their products: Honey can be ordered on their website or at specialty stores in New York, including Astoria Bier & Cheese, Milk and Hops, O Live Brooklyn, and Foster Sundry. Also served at Room 55 in Glendale and Julia’s in Ridgewood, as well as being used in craft beers at Big Alice Brewery in LIC, Bridge & Tunnel Brewery in Ridgewood and Finback Brewery in Glendale.
Location: York Prep School, 40 West 68th Street, New York, NY
Beekeepers: Danny Senter and Janet Rooney
Reason for founding: “Because urban beekeeping became legalized and what a great interactive learning experience for our students to learn more about how our environment works”
Mission: “To maintain a healthy apiary while simultaneously educating students about the environment. More specifically, students learn basic beekeeping skills but also learn about the vital importance bees play in our everyday lives.”
Number of hives: Five
Amount: “To be determined! This will be our biggest harvest ever!”
Products: “Honey only, and we donate propolis, etc. to another apiary/farm.”
Unique aspect: “I think the urban aspect and exposing city kids to something they initially find so foreign is what is unique.”
Where to find products: “We are currently working to sell it online at www.yorkprep.org in the next few weeks and we will be selling it at block parties and Lincoln Center Farmers Market Thursdays after school.”