Thursday, March 22, 2012

I Dream of Beekeeping

I feel so terrible that I've been so behind on blogging lately. Sometimes life takes over and before you know it, you are so busy that everything gets pushed to the wayside.  The last 3 Sundays, I have been trekking up to the Upper West Side to attend an urban beekeeping class taught by the New York City Beekeeper's Association.  On the first day of the class, I walked into the classroom and was so surprised to see a class FULL of people.  There was not a seat left in the room!! I am so amazed and thrilled that all these people want to learn how to beekeep right here in New York City.  Totally amazing!
The first two weeks of the class were lecture style instruction. The class is taught by a father and son team, Norman and Andrew Cote.  They are 4th generation beekeepers, and Andrew himself stated that he learned how to beekeep at age 10.  Wow.  I originally heard about this class from a lecture I saw Andrew give at The Hort on Urban Beekeeping.  He spoke again about Bees Without Borders, an organization that teaches beekeeping skills to impoverished communities around the world. He went on to tell us that they teach the class for free as volunteers and that all the money (minus the room rental) we paid for the class goes directly to Bees Without Borders.  The money is used towards buying beekeeping supplies that Bees Without Borders donates to these underdeveloped communities in need.  How cool is that? What a nice surprise to hear that the money we spent for the class is going to such a good cause!
Every week, they bring in guest speakers to share their stories about their experiences in urban beekeeping.  This is Sam telling us his adventures in beekeeping in Brooklyn Heights.  He told us that 3 years ago, he sat in the same exact class we were taking.  Now he keeps two active hives.
Last Sunday, it was warm enough for us to actually go up to the rooftop to check out the bees.  Man, were we all excited!  Can you believe this is 2 blocks from Lincoln Center???  Here are the beehives atop the rooftop of York Preparatory, where our class is held. I found this cool video on Youtube where our teacher Andrew is teaching a beekeeping class to the York Prep highschool students.  How cool would it have been to learn this in Highschool?  Lucky kids!! 
Norm gave us a demo on how to start a smoker.  He uses burlap which gives a nice slow controlled burn.  Smoke helps calm and subdue the bees.  So knowing how to use a smoker is a must!
Here he is showing us how to use the smoker on the beehives.

Here he is showing us how to pump the smoker once the burlap is lit.
We were all very excited about checking out the bees, we more or less swarmed Norm.  (Sorry for the pun, I could not resist.)
Here is Andrew showing us how to scrape off wax that collects along the boards.  He is showing us how to use the very useful hive metal tool.
Here is a shot of the father and son team in the same photo.  I'm not sure how long they have been teaching the class, but they are definitely very enthusiastic about it.  You can tell that they really enjoy beekeeping.  BTW, Norm maintains the beehives on Martha Stewart's estate.  Pretty cool huh?
More demonstrations of the hive tool.
Showing us how to inspect hives.
I'm not sure if I'll have my own hives in the city.  I have to give it more thought.  It's quite an expensive hobby.  They recommend two hives to start off with, which when hive supplies and bees are purchased will run about $500.  There is also a problem in New York City, in that it is getting saturated with bee hives ever since the city made it legal to beekeep.  To produce 1 pound of honey, bees need to visit 1 million flowers!!  In an urban environment, there is a concern of lack or foraging space.  For this year, for the time being, I applied to this beekeeping apprenticeship program with Big Apple Apiary.  The problem is however that there are lots of people going after the few apprenticeship slots available.  So... I don't know if I will be lucky enough to get one of the slots.  Therefore, I decided to go to the next NYC Beekeeper's Association meeting to see if maybe I can meet a beekeeper who would be interested in taking me under their wings.  Literally. 


  1. You will you so much fun bee keeping! We did it for yours.

  2. I hope you get accepted.

    That's a cool class. I wish we had one here.

    We have a hive, just have never put any bees in it.

    Need to learn a lot more before we take that final step.

  3. The beekeeping apprenticeship sounds like a wonderful way to ease into this. If you hang out long enough a spot will surely open up. In the meantime, take my approach: those who can't beekeep read about beekeeping :) I particularly liked Holley Bishop's "Robbing the Bees: A Biography of Honey" which provides an interesting historical look at beekeeping juxtiposed with the author's own experience as a first time beekeeper. Best of luck to you!

  4. I would love to keep bees. My hubby - not so much. I am lucky enough to live within two blocks of two bee hives. I was so happy to see a few bees last week. They are already checking out some of my flowers! I really want to see the hives and learn from him but I don't want to knock on his door and say "Hi....Can I see your Bees?" I will just keep waiting until I see a sign saying he has honey for sale.

  5. Meems,
    Such exciting news! Hope you get some hives or someone to help out. A lot different than here, we use pine straw in our smokers, very common here. Forage here one could have up to 100 hives.

  6. Very cool! We have some temporary hives coming to the orchard next weekend; I am so excited to learn all about this!


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