Before beekeeping was re-legalized in New York City last year, a handful of urban beekeepers operated in the shadows, surreptitiously tending hives hidden in backyards or on rooftops, and sharing their small but precious honey harvest with friends, fellow beekeepers and the city’s tiny population of honey connoisseurs while the rest of us blithely squeezed the stuff from Key Food honey bears onto our toast.
After legalization, a trickle of legit local honey began finding its way onto the retail market, and rumors of the benefits of the local liquid goal seemed to race across the borough like wildfire. “Honey made by local bees with the same local pollen that wreaks havoc on your sinuses makes lifelong allergies disappear in a matter of weeks,” they whispered. Or “Urban honey is safer because the bees aren’t collecting pollen from plants sprayed with pesticides and herbicides.” News stories about the questionable provenance and content of the kind of commodity honey you find on supermarket shelves (thanks to a nefarious practice called ‘honey laundering’) only added fuel to the fire.
Demand for the local stuff exploded, and local beekeepers were caught offguard. The situation was hopeless – no one could generate enough supply as local honey fiends swept in to buy and hoard every last drop they could get their hands on. The last of the borough’s fall honey harvest was gone in a matter of weeks.
To Brooklyn Grange, the rooftop farm that’s in the process of expanding to its second one-acre location at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the opportunity was clear. Determined to significantly ramp up honey production to meet the local demand, they launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $20,000 to build out a full-on apiary, including a minimum of 25 hives with the goal of producing over 1,000 pounds of honey this year.
Late last week they hit (and surpassed) their fundraising goal, and they’re already hard at work. Here’s a time-lapse video by photographer Alex Brown, of the Brooklyn Bees crew installing hives at the apiary site on a Navy Yard rooftop. What’s kind of strange here? Viewed at this distance and speed, the beekeepers at work take on a kind of uncanny resemblance to bees in the hive…