City-dwellers swarm to urban beekeeping
November 8th, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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The sounds of Gotham: a shriek of a siren; the blare of a taxi horn; the screech of the subway car; the buzzing of a bee in your ear?

The cacophony that reflects the many moving parts of New York City has gotten a bit louder recently with the re-emergence of urban beekeeping. Since March 2010, man-made hives have been taking roost on rooftops, balconies and gardens throughout the five boroughs. Additionally, local honey stands have become a staple in the many farmers markets that pop up throughout the city.

“There has never been urban beekeeping in New York at this level. The exponential growth, it’s unparalleled," says Andrew Coté, Founding Director of the New York City Beekeepers Association.

This is all happening after an 11 year ban on beekeeping was finally lifted. "That period is what us beekeepers called 'the bitter years,'" says Coté.

Back in 1999, a law was passed by the New York City Council that landed the honeybee on the hit list of prohibited animals within the city limits (right alongside pythons and alligators). Yet, after many years petitioning on their behalf by groups of New York apiarists, the ban was lifted in the spring of 2010, and the honey started to flow again.

“The first time that we taught the basic urban beekeeping course, I believe 40 people took the class. And two years later, 280 people took the class. So there definitely is an uptick," says Coté.

This surge in metropolitan apiaries can be attributed to several reasons, according to experts; the most prevalent of these being the locavore movement sweeping the country.

“I think that it’s part of a broader trend of interest in where our food comes from," according to Vivian Wang, recently of the National Resource Defense Council, or NRDC. “The interest in becoming more connected with what we put on our plates and in our bodies has translated into a rise of interest in urban beekeeping," she says while tending the hives at her company’s Midtown offices.

The brisk trade of $15, 1/2-pound jars from Andrew’s New York City honey stand in the heart of Rockefeller Center each Thursday can attest to the demand. The brightly colored lids labeled UWS (Upper West Side), BK (Brooklyn), 14th + 2nd, 17th + 5th, and so on, draw the milling office dwellers right in.

“Lunchtime is always good," he exclaims before rushing off to make another sale.

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Filed under: Bees • Environment • News • Think • Video

soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. MannyHM

    Thank you New Yorker beekeepers for increasing the population of bees. These bees help plants and people.

    November 9, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
  2. T3chsupport

    This is great, but is there a worry at all of all of the nasty city air stuff that the bees pick up getting into the honey? I don't know if it would or not, but would be interested if anyone does.

    November 9, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • dctv

      according to the bee expert, Andrew Cote, the stressors of city-living seem to have little, if any, impact on the bees. and the concentrated diversity of vegetation that NYC provides is even better for the bees than what their country cousins have to live off of..

      November 9, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  3. jw

    Having kept bees in a rural setting for years, I can only guess that the urban beekeepers have a harder task of keeping the hives from swarming and trying to set up housekeeping in the neighbors homes.

    November 9, 2011 at 8:33 am |
    • dctv

      there have been more than several instances of swarming in the 5 boroughs (NYC), which has freaked out some urbanites; but, as i'm sure you're aware jw, it is a way that the species propagates itself and when they are at their most docile..

      November 9, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  4. Willie12345

    It's a fun hobby with it's own rewards. It should be encouraged.

    November 9, 2011 at 8:21 am |
  5. Brian

    Local honey is great for people with allergies. We found a local stand within a couple of miles of us a few years ago. Those bees are producing honey from the same plants that are flooding the air with their pollen. A little bit of honey a day has similar benefits to allergy shots, but with the benefit of being the exact variants of the plants causing the problems in the first place. Just don't OD on the honey!

    November 9, 2011 at 7:46 am |
    • Paul

      Not to take away from your point but strangely enough honey in its traditional flowing form if ingested by me makes me very nauseous.

      November 9, 2011 at 9:35 am |
  6. Liutgard

    One of my daughters and her fiance had a hive on a rooftop in Queens this summer. It was an interesting experience, albeit a little expensive. They had trouble keeping a Queen. One died, another talked the other bees into swarming and leaving for better quarters. I don't know if they plan to try again in the spring or not. Would be a shame though, to not get more pictures from them of him in the bee suit, and his Lovely Assistant. ;-)

    November 9, 2011 at 4:55 am |
  7. Buzz

    What was it that "...landed the honeybee on the hit list of prohibited animals within the city limits?"

    November 9, 2011 at 4:31 am |
    • Wastrel

      I wonder, myself. It seems like it must have been a lack of brains, a desire to over-regulate, an inability to recognize the possibilities, or some other typical failure of government.

      November 9, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  8. Danny

    I think it's incredibly naive of ppl not to see the obvious attempt of city "beekeepers" trying to find a cover for honey roofies. It's sickening. Let's call it what it is here, this is rape. Let's not propagate this.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:44 am |
    • Matt

      Either this is a failed attempt at humor, or you're a lunatic. I honestly can't tell which one it is.

      November 9, 2011 at 9:25 am |
  9. M.K.

    Bee keeping is one of the best things anyone can do. Bees are essential for the pollination of everything that makes flowers and a lot of trees and vegetables. More power to you. The honey they produce is one of the most perfect foods there is. If we can produce more bees they might be able to fend off the Killer bees that are moving northward at an alarming rate.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:08 am |
  10. joshwash

    Nice. Really sweet and good.

    November 9, 2011 at 1:17 am |
  11. Niki

    I told my husband... if we ever come into enough money, I want to buy some land (for goats, horses, etc.) with a lake on it (for ducks and geese), and I want to have bee keeping hives... he thought I was crazy. Now though, it looks like I may not have to wait for that land after all. I want to take that class and begin my urban bee hive right here!!!

    November 9, 2011 at 12:50 am |
  12. James

    So Thats The New Bubble Keeping An endangered Species Huh ?

    November 8, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
  13. Chris

    Oh what an interesting and original story: I hadn't ever heard of urban beekeeping! Thanks CNN for bringing this story to the light of day.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
  14. Truth

    The Bee, She is a Busy Soul...
    She has no time for birth control...
    That is why...
    In times like these...
    There are so many...
    Sons of Bees...

    November 8, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
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