You might think that beekeeping would not be a popular profession in New York City, but you would be wrong.
Beekeeping was legalized in New York City in 2010 and now there are over 200 hives scattered across all of the boroughs producing around 2,000 pounds of honey!
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With so much local honey, is it any wonder there's a Honey Festival showcasing local beekeepers in the Tri-State area? Beekeeping might seem like a fun and easy hobby, but there are actually a lot of responsibilities, rules and other issues you need to keep in mind.
Meet Experienced Beekeepers
Before you even purchase your first hive you should first talk to other beekeepers. Almost all beekeepers are more than happy to share their expertise with people who are interested in the topic.
There are almost a hundred beekeepers in New York City so there are plenty of people you can reach out to. Before sending an introductory email make sure you do some research and find beekeepers that focus on methods you also want to follow.
Not only will this narrow down your search, it will also give you a better idea of what supplies you might need once you do start your own hive.
If you want a more informal setting you can also join some beekeeping Meetup groups. This allows you to interact with people of different experience levels.
Take Some Classes
Besides one-on-one interaction, you can also attend meetings at the New York City Beekeeping Association to learn more about bees themselves, how to keep them happy and harvesting the honey.
The meetings are monthly and they often invite well-known scientists and beekeepers. They also offer a 12-hour class that covers the basics of maintaining a healthy hive with classes that teach you about the basic biology of bees to the various diseases and treatments that can affect bees.
Find the Best Location for Your Hive
While honeybees tend to be fairly docile, they do have the ability to sting and can act aggressively towards people who disturb their hive.
Considering how crowded New York City is, it's important to find a place far enough away from your neighbors and crowded streets to prevent any disturbance to your hive. In addition to worrying about other people, you want to make sure you put it somewhere you can easily access.
A single hive can produce up to 100 pounds of honey during harvest time. While a rooftop might be out of the way of your neighbors, it might not be as convenient for you if the only way to access it is via your fire escape.
Struggling down the fire escape with a hundred pounds of honey is difficult and dangerous. Speaking of fire escapes, never place your hive on it. Not only is it dangerous, it is also illegal.
If you have enough space for a hive it's time to take the bees into consideration as well.
The bees, while generally quite adaptable, also have their own set of preferences which include:
- Good drainage
- Nearby water source
- Good ventilation
- Level ground
- Dappled sunlight
If you can't find a place near your apartment to place your hive you don't need to give up hope yet.
Contact a local community garden and see if they would be willing to host your bees. Most will welcome them as they are important pollinators. Try to find one close to your home as you won't want to cart around almost a hundred pounds of fresh honey on the streets of New York City.
Purchase Your Supplies
There are a lot of different suppliers so you'll want to do your research and choose one that fits your needs.
Since New York City can often get very hot and cold, it's important to find bees that can handle these swings in temperature as well as the loud noises and air pollution. Besides the bees you'll also need the actual hives, a bee suit, smoker, extracting tools and much more.
If you're starting beekeeping because you think it's cheap, think again. You'll likely invest $1,000+ when you first start. After the initial investment, the costs should decrease so long as you maintain your bees and equipment.
File Your Papers
In order to legally keep a hive you'll need to register not only with New York City but with the state as well.
The registration form is fairly straightforward and requires your name, address, location of the hive, telephone, e-mail and emergency contact information. When you first start your hive, you will need to send the form in within 30 days of setting up the colony.
Afterwards, you need to renew the beekeeping form every year and update the information within 10 days if there are any changes.
Starting your own apiary can be a very rewarding experience, but it requires even more prep work in New York City than in the backyard of someone who lives in the countryside.
If you're interested, make sure to put in the time and do your research not only on the business of beekeeping but on the bees, New York City regulations and the location of the hive.