Bees and honey buzz New York City

"NYC Honey Fest is a celebration of the amazing pollinators who make the five boroughs their home." (Ph: Chris Taylor)

“NYC Honey Fest is a celebration of the amazing pollinators who make the 5 boroughs their home.” (Ph: Chris Taylor)

A collaboration between Brooklyn Grange and City Growers has produced a week-long festival devoted to all things honey. NYC Honey Week began on Monday and continues through Sunday (9/14) at specific locations across New York City. Kids can peer into a hive and see where honey starts at City Growers, Friday beginning at noon (RSVP necessary). On Saturday, head to the Rockaway Boardwalk for the Honey Fest, a celebration of bees, beach, and honey-brewed beer.

With the ongoing decrease in the honeybee population, NYC Honey Week sets out to raise awareness about, spread appreciation for, and educate people on the honeybee’s many contributions—and plight—through arts, food, music, film, and other entertaining and engaging activities. Although this is the first year of Honey Week, bee culture has been growing in NYC for years, as Jessica Austerlitz from Brooklyn Grange explains:

“When we built Brooklyn Grange rooftop farm in the spring of 2010, beekeeping had just been legalized. There was a lot of energy around the movement and New York City beekeepers were coming out of hiding for the first time in years. As our own apiary grew from one hive to several colonies, so, too, did our connection to the other apiarists of New York City.

We found ourselves surrounded by a lot of passionate beekeepers, as well as a lot of chefs and food producers doing their part to support bees by using honey in culinary creations, from beers and spirits to ice cream, and even savory stuff. It just seemed that there was tremendous potential for a larger gathering of the honey community of New York City to come together around these incredible creatures who do so much for our ecosystem and are in such grave danger at the moment.

It might seem incongruous to throw a honey festival in a city: people think of apiaries as a rural endeavor.  But they are actually incredibly productive here in New York City, in part because our urban ecosystem shields them from exposure to a lot of the agricultural chemicals to which they might be exposed in more large-scale farming areas.”

With about two dozen hives of Russian Bees* given to the beekeepers at Brookyn Grange by a friend at the Warm Colors Apiary in Massachusetts – now kept on various rooftops in Brooklyn and Queens as well as Time Square, Jersey City, and the South Bronx – it safe to say New Yorkers are welcoming the idea of having these busy bees as their new neighbors. Not only are the bees being used to help increase the production of farms and jolt artistic and culinary inspiration, they are also being used to educate urban youth on the importance of their contribution to the city and the ecosystem through a program by City Growers. So if you want to end summer on a sweet note travel out and get a taste of the sweet life bees have to offer before Honey Week ends.

*Russian honey bees were brought to the US in 1997, for their resistance to mites. A comparison of bees of various nationalities is here. North America has many native bee species, but honey bees came with European settlers. Read more about Brooklyn Grange’s beekeeping at the food blog Nona Brooklyn. And more about the mysteries of keeping NYC bees at Boroughbees.