When I visited Montreal a few weeks ago, I noticed immediately that the city, which is full of gardens and public planted spaces, had a booming bee population. But I was surprised to see that so many people were swatting at the bees as if they were pests. I thought it was common knowledge that a bee only stings when provoked! Swatting at a bee is just as stupid as walking up to a coyote and throwing rocks at it. If the bee is minding his own business, just leave the little dude alone.
Bees play a HUGE role in the agricultural system. Without honeybees to pollinate our plants, our tomato plants and corn stalks and bean vines would not produce any food. That's why the mysterious death of so many bees in the last 4 years is such a scary phenomenon: less bees in the world ultimately means a lot less food.
Up until March of 2010, keeping bees in New York City was actually illegal. Bees were seen as a danger to the community, especially in a city where buildings are so close together that your neighbor's beehive would essentially be your beehive. But after years of dealing with the dwindling bee population, and the support of Michelle Obama installing a beehive at The White House, the laws have changed and beekeeping is now in full swing in NYC!
I met Tim O'Neal, a beekeper who raises bees just a few blocks away from FarmTina in Brooklyn- I like to think that it's his bees who have been pollinating my plants! Tim answered all of my questions about beekeeping in the city, and he even teaches a class on the subject at Brooklyn Brainery. Registration is still open if you'd like to sign up- classes start September 29th.
Tim's partner in crime Philippe and their rooftop apiary
FarmTina: The first question I think everyone wants to know... WHY?! Why beekeeping? And why do it in a place like Brooklyn?