Beekeeping, With Associations’ Help, Takes New York City By Swarm

NYC has become an unexpected hot spot for beekeeping, with associations helping to buoy the trend in the hub of all things buzzworthy.

Bee populations have been on the decline in recent years, with beekeepers around the U.S. scrambling to save the flying insects.

Perhaps surprisingly, however, bees are doing OK in the country’s largest urban center, thanks to renewed interest in beekeeping.

Among the many things buzzing through New York City—yellow cabs, fast walkers, cyclists—are lots of bees and multiple beekeeping associations.

“Tending beehives on top of New York City and other urban areas is nothing new. However, there has been something of a renaissance in the past five to eight years and it has gained great popularity,” New York City Beekeepers Association President Andrew Coté explained in comments to Reuters.

He says registered beehives in the city have grown tenfold over the last five years, with the city’s 2010 decision to legalize beekeeping considered a major turning point. The NYC Department of Health says there are about 300 registered hives, with over 100 beekeepers throughout the five boroughs.

Buzzing on High

With limited space for beekeeping, where’s the best spot to tend to them? Easy: the city’s rooftops. One of the city’s highest apiaries is 723 feet up, on the 76th floor of the Residence Inn near Central Park. It holds around 180,000 bees in six hives.

“Since we have put the hives in two and a half years ago, we have done a fair amount of research, and we haven’t been able to find a hive higher than we are at this point,” Residence Inn Central Park General Manager Timothy McGilnchey told Reuters.

Other New Yorkers have become casual hobbyist beekeepers.

According to LiveScience, Matt Howes of the Natural Resources Defense Council now manages four hives on the roof of the advocacy group’s Manhattan office. The Waldorf Astoria hotel also has its own rooftop beehives, contributing a small portion of its honey (125 of the 1,000 pounds used) to the kitchen.

“We love having the honey,” Waldorf’s executive chef, David Garcelon, told LiveScience. “Honey is such a versatile thing that you can use in so many dishes. And it has a story behind it that we can share with guests, many of whom can’t believe that there are beehives in Manhattan.”

When Buzz Goes Bad

All of this buzz in the city has created some chaos.

For one thing, there’s been a corresponding rise in bee swarms, even with visual updates shared through the @NYPDBees Twitter account. NYPD detective Daniel Higgins, the department’s designated beekeeper, told Al Jazeera America that he generally takes 15 to 20 calls a week during peak bee season.

Another problem has to do with the beekeeping associations themselves. Last year, some bad buzz arose between the NYC Beekeepers Association and the NYC Beekeeping Association over their similar names.

The NYC Beekeepers Association got upset with the NYC Beekeeping Association when it addressed itself as “The NYC Beekeeping Association,” rather than “NYC Beekeeping,” in an advertisement. This led to a legal tussle. The New York Post, when investigating the dispute, found an additional wrinkle: The trademark application from the NYC Beekeepers Association was not accepted by the U.S. government because it was too “generic” and “primarily geographically descriptive.”

The NYC Beekeeping Association apparently had first dibs, but the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ultimately chose to let the NYC Beekeepers Association keep its name, putting it on its Supplemental Register in 2013.

Sometimes, building buzz gets complicated.

Patrick deHahn

By Patrick deHahn

Patrick deHahn is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!