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.