May 22, 2009 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
Beekeeping is illegal in New York City where honeybees are considered “wild and ferocious animals.” Are urban beekeepers outlaws? Those who comprise the anonymous group of urban beekeepers in the Big Apple would not be forced to keep their endeavors secret if they practiced their nectar harvesting in Chicago, Dallas, Boston, San Francisco, or Portland. Chicago, which has beehives on top of City Hall, is among those cities actively promoting beekeeping for pollinator health. In 2007, The National Academy of Sciences reported major losses in managed bee colonies. Bees are in danger of extinction due to a number of threats including disease, habitat destruction and alteration, pesticides, and climate change. At stake is roughly a third–or about $15 billion annually–of our country’s food that is not benefitting from the necessary pollination provided by bees.
According to Bee Culture magazine, of its 12,000 readers, 15% live in cities with more than 100,000 people. From the magazine’s surveys, they estimate there are about 75,000 hobbyist beekeepers in the United States.
Current interest in locally grown, organic, and low-impact city living is inspiring people to explore methods of producing their own food, even if it’s that’s just on a postage stamp size city terrace, balcony, or, as in the case of some who make it a business, on a rooftop. David Graves risks a $2000 fine for maintaining the many beehives he tends in city skies atop buildings in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and The Bronx. His rooftop honey, labeled by neighborhood, is a favorite find at his stand, Berkshire Berries at the Union Square Greenmarket. Where Graves was once a loner in the city’s honey trade, he is now one of several who belong to The New York City Beekeeping Meet-up, started by fellow urban beekeeper, John Howe of Fort Greene.
Take a look at this video for a glimpse into the overhead yet underground world of urban beekeeping:
For more information: Beekeeper Andrew Coté, firstname.lastname@example.org , seeks rooftops or other areas that could accommodate hives. Also consider swarming your local representatives to share your thoughts about following in the buzz of other great cities by making urban beekeeping legal.