Sunday, February 14, 2010

Apiarist fantasies...

"On average, it takes about a dozen bees to gather enough nectar to make just one gloriously golden teaspoon of honey, and each of those bees must visit more than 2,600 flowers in the process. Crazier still, all those flights from the hive to the flowers and back again add up to 850 miles or so, just over distance from New York to Chicago." Plan/bee


   For a few years now, I've fantasized about becoming a beekeeper and have sporadically studied in my spare time, trying to gather enough knowledge, experience and confidence to start my own hive. After missing two consecutive years of winter classes offered by the Rhode Island Beekeeper's Association, I knew that things were going to have to change in 2010. The classes offered by the NY association were too expensive for my budget, but I was able to find a group of beekeepers in the city that offer their own classes for free. So far, they've been taught by Jim Fischer, a seasoned beekeeper who honestly knows what he's talking about and is able to express that in a truly enthusiastic manner. He's funny, cusses and is kind of a wise-ass; all of which help to keep me up on those early Sunday mornings, when these classes tend to happen. Not normally my "power hours," but for the free knowledge and the opportunity to become a part of a larger group of urban beekeepers, I get up pretty easily.
   Beekeeping is still illegal in NYC since bees have unfortunately been classified as, "dangerous animals, naturally inclined to do harm or capable of inflicting harm." There has been quite a bit of action in the past year to legalize beekeeping and I've heard from several group members that it seems highly likely to change in the next couple months. That nice new beehive set up on the White House lawn, complete with an official beekeeper has probably helped sway some bureaucratic minds- as well as the fact that globally, large populations of both bees and bats have been mysteriously died in recent years. For bees, it's called colony collapse disorder and there's a ton of speculation as to why it's been occurring. Pesticides, GMO agricultural practices, migratory beekeeping and cell phone radiation are a few of the proposed causes that are brought up the most. Of course it's probably all this AND MORE, since we live in a toxic, crazy, sick society! Seriously...
   Anyway, all this has definitely grabbed the attention of government officials. These small creatures play an enormously important role in the production of food, due to the fact that they pollinate just about every major food crop. Without them, we'd be starving our asses off. It's that simple. A politician's worst nightmare is a mass of angry, panicky and hungry people- so it only makes sense for some policy to change, you know? Otherwise, there's going to be total chaos! If we want food, than we need bees! This is just the short of it...

Honey CSA

   The plan in the next couple months is to actually start a hive. To offset the initial costs, I'm starting a honey CSA and am looking for 15 people to pay $20 for the year. The location of the hive is yet to be determined, but I've had several good leads so far. If you happen to know of a dependable person who has a stable location- where they might potentially like to host a hive on their roof, or in their yard- please let me know or have them contact me.
   The deal would be that members would get raw honey, pollen and possibly beeswax- at least once. (If it's possible to do a second harvest, and still leave enough honey for the bees to live off to survive winter, of course members would get more.) There's no definite math, but a colony of bees (50,000-75,000 bees) can generate anywhere from 20-60 pounds- more or less- of honey in a season. $20 is roughly what one might pay for some locally grown honey and pollen at a farmer's market. Members also have the option to come tend to the hive with me and learn what I know. I'd really love to be able to share this with people who are interested in becoming more familiar with beekeeping practices, urban homesteading, or just want to check out the bees and see them in action.
   It must be said though, there is no guarantee that members will get anything since environmental factors, potential colony collapse or seriously, even theft can happen. All I can guarantee on my end is that I'll do my best to maintain the hive as best as I can. Luckily, I can access people within the beekeeping group for help, if anything were to come up. While I don't foresee any issues coming up, it's reassuring to know that there is help available and people around to bounce ideas off of. Jim jokingly said in class one day something along the lines that, "only an idiot can fuck-up a hive." It's true in the sense that once you have a hive set-up, you just let the bees do their thing. You periodically check the hive for parasites and other issues, but otherwise a beekeeper is best described as a steward. I'm definitely in the camp of non-invasive and "as organic as possible," beekeeping practices. If I don't like to eat high fructose corn syrup myself, why would I feed them to the bees?
   I'm trying to gather the money for the CSA as soon as possible since the beekeeping co-op is doing a bulk order of bee packages and equipment in the coming weeks. The bees are expected to be delivered in the beginning of April and it would be best to have everything set up beforehand. If you are interested in becoming a part of the CSA, please email me about how to arrange payment. I'm trying to keep the group to only 15 people, since I feel like that will be an easy number for me to maintain. If you have any questions, or would like to talk further about beekeeping, please feel free to contact me at or just call if you have my number. 
   Expect in the coming months for more posts and art to come out of this adventure into beekeeping. In the meantime, stay warm and take care-
 Much love,
Caroline Paquita


   There's a wealth of information on the internet and in books that describe the truly interesting, and seemingly mythical history of beekeeping. Reading a little on the evolution, biology, social structure and organization of the beehive will suck you in and leave you wanting to know more! I've read over and over again that after man, Apis mellifera, is the most studied creature on the planet. For me, it's easy to see why. If you're interested, here's a short list to get you started:

Bee basics:
The beekeeping group that I am involved in:
Their sister organization, the Gotham City Honey Co-Op:
Ross Conrad, author of Natural Beekeeping:
Great book on the history of beekeeping throughout the ages:
Colony collapse disorder:
Beekeeping for beginners videos. Definitely made by some guys that are more on the "survivalist tip," but still pretty good:
Nerdy science posts concerning pheromones and the mating of Queen bees: