Beeline Gets a Taste of Urban Beekeeping

On Monday, August 22nd, I had the amazing experience of visiting an urban beekeeper in Astoria, Queens. For those who aren’t sure what that is, it’s exactly what it sounds like: the practice of keeping bees in an urban environment (Thank you for the official definition, Wikipedia!). Fun Fact: Beekeeping was illegal in NYC because health officials considered bees to be dangerous, but the ban was lifted in 2010 and now it’s thriving!

Beeline Co-Creator Kim visits an urban beekeeper in Astoria
Beeline co-creator Kim visits urban beekeeper in Astoria

Fast forward to July 2016, I was doing some outreach for local beekeepers because (a) it’s really interesting and (b) I wanted to do some extra research for our board game, Beeline. On this particular Monday morning, The NYC Beekeeper (his real name is Nick and he’s super cool) suggested that I tag along as he and fellow beekeeper, Jesse, inspected their hives that evening. They suspected one of their hives to be queenless (aka.. not good! Check out Signs Your Colony is Queenless) and wanted to do a thorough inspection to make sure she was definitely gone. How exciting.. This is what bee nerd dreams are made of! With waivers agreed upon and safety gear donned, I climbed the one-story ladder behind Nick and Jesse and the inspection began.

Flow Hive
Flow™ Hive

The whole process was fascinating. I wasn’t sure what to expect up there on that roof. I saw the wooden Flow™ Hives, lots of piping, and smoke. Jesse had lit some paper on fire in order to light the bee smoker, which I learned is used to calm the bees (I always wondered what that was for). Honeybees use pheromones as a means of communication within the hive. The smoke masks bee pheromones, confusing the bees but keeping them calm in order for beekeepers to work without any fear of attack. Jesse and Nick patiently took out row after row of the hive looking for any signs of queens (mainly larvae, as queens are the only bees that can lay fertile eggs). Gratefully, Nick gave me a play by play, let me among the swarm for the queen, and pointed out differences between the drones (male bees) and worker bees. We saw new “baby bees” emerging and some larvae – which left us utterly perplexed since the queen was still MIA.

Jesse and Nick carefully inspect the rows of hives
Jesse and Nick carefully inspect the hive

We searched and searched (beekeeping requires patience..) until Jesse called out that he’d spotted the queen! There she was, a thing of beauty – long and regal – there among her fellow bees. She had an identifying mark, a small white dot on her thorax, which is common practice in beekeeping. There’s a color code system which indicates when a queen was introduced into a hive. White, in this instance, means that she was introduced in a year ending in 1 or 6. The team was thrilled, although they had already ordered a new queen as a precaution that was scheduled to arrive the next day (see previous blog post link above for why you don’t want a queenless hive). Nonetheless, the relief was palpable… and I couldn’t help but declare myself the good luck charm!

Overall, this experience was a fun one! When I posted my picture on Facebook, I received several comments from people who say they would never do that… and maybe I wouldn’t have a few years ago. But I’m proud that I did, and I hope to have this experience again. I’ve made new beekeeper friends and that’s pretty sweet. I wouldn’t say that I was brave for doing this, I’m passionate and I want real-world experiences. One more chapter added to my book called life..

Oh, one more fun fact: If you ever find yourself near a beehive and smell bananas, RUN! Bees’ attack phermone resembles the scent of a banana.

All photography courtesy of Kim Carey; All rights reserved

5 Reasons We Definitely Need To Save The Bees

Bees are important… like, really important. They’re also mysteriously disappearing (colony collapse disorder) and dying due to various factors in large quantities. I watched a TED Talk with Noah Wilson-Rich and it got me thinking about some of the top reasons for saving the bees.

#5. Farmers Markets

IMG_7400

I’m completely on board with the local food movement and understand the craze over CSAs. Over the last few years, I’ve noticed the trend has been on the rise. Rain or shine, urbanites travel for their farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, all of which exist because of honeybees and other pollinators. ICYMI: Bees pollinate 1/3rd of the food we eat! Yep… you can thank honeybees for those kiwis, cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, peaches, almonds, celery, peppers, tomatoes, cherries, oranges, avocados that you buy every week.

 

#4. Jeans

Well not only jeans er, denim, but all cotton and natural fibers which are pollinated by bees. Bees keep the clothes on our backs! I’m thinking of all of the cotton items in my own apartment that I use every day and can’t imagine life without: Egyptian cotton bed sheets, socks (we LOVE socks.. especially Bombas socks), and denim (especially of the raw variety!). Cotton’s marketing team had it right; it IS the fabric of our lives!

 

#3. HONEY!!!

I love honey not just because it’s delicious, but also because contains essential elements such as enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. In parts of the world, people consume honey to aid with allergies and respiratory illnesses. Because of it’s unique chemical makeup and the fact that it’s antimicrobial and antibacterial, honey can be preserved indefinitely. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty sweet. Honey makes everything better and is a great nutritional substitute for sugar. There’s been a honey trend over the years with honey-sweetened lemonade, Mead wines, honey spirits and beer. I’ve even seen “hot honey” on the rise. I don’t hate it..

 

#2. Coffee

DYK? Over 50% of Americans 18 and older drink coffee every day. On average, US coffee drinkers consume 3.1 cups per day! Believe it or not, I’m not a coffee drinker but it’s very clear that coffee is a hot commodity (pun intended!). You guessed it, bees are responsible for the pollination of coffee plants. Coffee helps give that jumpstart in the morning (….and afternoon), and similarly, the low levels of caffeine found in the coffee plants’ nectar give bees a little buzz too!

Coffee facts courtesy of E-Importz

 

#1. Feminism

Source: Kim Carey; All Rights Reserved
Via teenfeminist.com

I know what you’re thinking… but really, hear me out. A hive has a 95% female to 5% male ratio. All of the worker bees are females – they do all of the jobs including: maintaining the hive, caring for eggs and newly hatched baby bees, foraging for nectar and pollen, protecting the queen and defending the hive. These are some bad ass ladies!! So what do the male bees (called drones) do in the hive? They have one job and one job only, and that is to impregnate the Queen. We’re not only species where the females can do it all.

The verdict: We need to 100% save our bees.