New York City is Buzzing With Honey Bees!

Urban beekeepers are keeping bee populations thriving via rooftop and tiny garden hives.

May 3, 2021
New York City is Buzzing With Honey Bees! | Urban beekeepers are keeping bee populations thriving via rooftop and tiny garden hives.

While elsewhere in the world, honey bees have created a buzz due to their sharp decline that's mostly blamed on their exposure to pesticides in rural areas, the reverse is true in New York. Bustling New York City may not appear to be a bee-friendly area, but its high-rise rooftops and tiny gardens are buzzing with honey bees.

As “The Bee Guy”, President of New York City Beekeepers Association and founder of Andrew’s Honey, Andrew Coté , tells Reuters in our video, there’s a rich variety of nectar sources for bees in New York.

This “smorgasbord” happens because very  few of the trees in Manhattan, for instance, are indigenous, so the honey bees get spoiled for choice due to the array of flowering flora now thriving in the city.

The idea that urban landscapes offer a more diverse nectar supply for honey bees is backed up by a January 2021 UK study from the University of Bristol. This confirms that the nectar in urban settings does come from more plant species than in farmland and nature reserves.

This varied diet enables honey bees to “create, through their special alchemy, this beautiful honey that that cannot be found anywhere else in the world,” Coté explains.

Coté’s own-brand honey jars celebrate this hyperlocal taste, and are even named after the New York neighborhoods the honey was collected in.

Coté is helping others establish colonies of their own in a city that legalized beekeeping in 2010, and now has hundreds of registered hives, as Reuters reports.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), significant yearly declines in honey bee colonies have been logged in recent years. The main cause is bee “colony collapse” caused by exposure to pesticides. But as Cote explains, in the Big Apple: “Believe it or not, bees do well because there’s less pesticides generally [than in rural areas]”.

Hives multiplying on high-rise rooftops and tiny gardens
From balcony beehives to car park market gardens, city dwellers have been finding innovative ways to embrace urban agriculture, promoting ecological wellbeing in the process.

The pandemic has intensified the interest in connecting with nature in urban hubs. In New York, hundreds of beekeepers and hobbyists are adding hives to the rooftops of high-rise buildings, community gardens and tiny gardens in America’s biggest city. Plus there’s growing awareness of the health-giving properties of honey.

The sweet life of urban beekeepers
The motivations for keeping honey bees can vary. Some keepers want to do something good for the environment, others want a hobby with sweet rewards. Many are captivated by the change to get a closer to the charismatic little creatures.

Nick Hoefly runs a beekeeping business that grew out of a hobby. “This will be a good honey year,” Hoefly told the New York Times. “With everyone staying home, there was less disruption of green spaces and more forages for the bees. Bees don’t know there’s a pandemic. They just know the dandelions that are usually mowed down weren’t.”

For Coté, beekeeping is “A nice way to connect to nature in a city like this.”. He shares that working with beehives is a therapeutic hobby, and one that’s almost meditative.

Like Coté, Hoefly talks about the tranquility that beekeeping gives him: “Sometimes I’ll sit on the roof for 10 to 20 minutes and watch the bees. It’s 100 percent relaxing. You can sit fairly close if you’re still and relaxed, and they will fly around you. It’s a cool feeling to be in the middle of a big cloud of bees.”

New York’s pollinator protection drive
Bees are the main pollinators of flowering plants, including many fruits and vegetables, playing an important role in maintaining healthy ecosystems.  Several US state departments have already recommended environmental measures to help pollinator species and their habitats stay healthy.

At the end of January 2021, the 2020 New York State Pollinator Protection Plan Update was released detailing the planned local measures.

Hoefly is also involved with this side of the honey bee story. He works with bartenders for the Aberfeldy Gardening Giveback Project, growing community-style gardens of herbs, flowers and plants for bees to pollinate. The bartenders use the herbs and honey in their cocktails.

Bloomberg’s plan bee!
Global business and financial data and media company, Bloomberg, headquartered in Manhattan, is feeling the buzz for bees. From June 2021, their new rooftop beehives are set to pollinate the urban flora surrounding their three New York offices, in collaboration with social beekeeping company, Alvéole.

To take part in what they describe as “the movement for more eco-conscious cities”, and ensure a deeper conversation about sustainability, they plan to harvest their honey and share it with their surrounding communities.

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Daphne has a background in editing, writing and global trends. She is inspired by trends seeing more people care about sharing and protecting resources, enjoying experiences over products and celebrating their unique selves. Making the world a better place has been a constant motivation in her work.