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Ready to Raise Bees?


While your family lolls by the pool, another family, perhaps just a few blocks down, is working feverishly around the clock for no pay, crammed into cubicles, tyrannized by a maniacal matriarch. Don’t be alarmed—it’s just another day in the beehive.

    Yes, there are hundreds of hives in our area, wooden crates kept by your neighbors in yards and on rooftops. It’s a fair deal: those neighbors provide the shelter, the bees provide them, and us, if they sell or share it, the food—local honey, pure, healthful, and delicious.

    Membership is booming in the Connecticut-based Backyard Beekeepers Association (backyardbeekeepers.com), whose numbers are fast approaching 500. That’s a lot of honey—for eating, brewing (honey beer, anyone?), and healing (take that, pollen allergies!). And then there are its byproducts: beeswax, resin, and royal jelly rich in vitamin-B. And don’t be concerned with that other byproduct: bee stings. Honeybees are not aggressive and will sting only if provoked. A beekeeper’s high fence or shrubbery is the routine antidote.

    “People are going back to nature,” says Backyard Beekeepers’ treasurer and Greenburgh town resident Pat Harrington. “There’s a great awareness now about our food, and honeybees are crucial to the food chain.”

    Hastings-on-Hudson residents Charles Branch and Christine Lehner tend hives in five Westchester locations—and one in Manhattan—that last year produced close to 1,000 pounds of their unfiltered, unheated Let It Bee Honey (letitbeehoney.com). The brand is sold at Hastings’s

    Saturday greenmarket, DeCicco’s in Ardsley, Whole Foods in White Plains, Geordanes in Irvington (61 Main St 914-591-6911; geordanes.com), and Mint Premium Foods in Tarrytown (18 Main St 914-703-6511). “It’s so interesting to watch the hive function,” Lehner says. “There’s a lot to be learned about nature.” And, apparently, about ourselves. “To sit and watch is a good way to slow down,” she says. “It’s very meditative.”

    On these languorous late-summer days, that sounds like a very sweet deal.

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