The Rooftop Beekeeper: A Scrappy Guide to Keeping Urban Honeybees by Megan Paska

36595b010627e41-261x361.jpg Author Megan Paska
Isbn 9781452107585
File size 41.9MB
Year 2014
Pages 176
Language English
File format PDF
Category hobbies


Rooftop Beekeeper The Rooftop Beekeeper The A Scrappy Guide to Keeping Urban Honeybees Megan Paska With R achel Wharton Photographs by Alex Brown Illustrations by Masako Kubo Text copyright © 2014 by Megan Paska. Photographs copyright © 2014 by Alex Brown. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher. ISBN 978-1-4521-3038-5 The Library of Congress has cataloged the previous edition as follows: ISBN 978-1-4521-0758-5 Designed by Suzanne LaGasa Illustrations by Masako Kubo The photographs on pages 17, 46, 52, 55, 83, 85, 95, and 124 were shot on location at Brooklyn Grange. Chronicle Books LLC 680 Second Street San Francisco, California 94107 Contents INTRODUC TION: How a City Girl Got Stung 6 CHAPTER 1: Why Keep Bees? Here’s Why You Should Consider Becoming an Urban Apiarist 14 CHAPTER 2: Know Your Bees 32 CHAPTER 3: CHAPTER 4: So, You’re a Beekeeper . . . Now What? 88 CHAPTER 5: CHAPTER 6: Hives 52 Show Me the Honey! 114 Wrapping It Up—End-of-Season Maintenance 128 CHAPTER 7: Recipes 140 Honey “Treacle” Tart 155 Honey Infusions: Hibiscus, Vanilla, and Pink Peppercorn 142 Jalapeño and Honey Skillet Cornbread 149 Fresh Ginger, Herb, and Honey Elixir 142 Speck, Cherry Pepper, and Honey Pizza 149 Strawberry-Honey Lemonade 143 Honey BBQ Seitan Sandwich with Quick Cabbage Slaw and Pickles 150 Spiced Iced Coffee with Honey 143 Country Girl Julep 144 The Best-Ever Honey and Olive Oil Granola with Sea Salt 145 Crispy Chicken Salad with Egg and Honey-Mustard Vinaigrette 152 Salty-Sweet Roasted Nuts 146 Honey and Soy-Glazed Duck Breast with Garlicky String Beans 153 Grapefruit Salad with Honey and Mint 146 Honey and Thyme-Glazed BBQ Pork Ribs 154 Honey Crostini Three Ways 147 Molasses-Free Gingerbread Cookies 155 Milk and Honey Oat Bread 148 GLOSSARY 162 RESOURCES INDEX 168 170 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 176 Goat’s Milk Ice Cream with Cardamom, Dates, and Honey 156 Clove and Honey Orange Marmalade 157 Honeycomb Candy with Rosewater 158 Healing Honey Salve 158 Propolis Tincture 159 Honey Rhassoul Clay Facial Mask 159 Beehive Stain-n-Seal 160 Easy Beeswax Candles 161 INTROD UCTION: How a City Girl Got Stung Sometimes when I stop to think about the fact that I am an urban apiarist—meaning people pay me to take care of bees—it still seems a little crazy. For one, I live in New York City, in its most populous borough, Brooklyn. It’s noisy, it’s grimy, and, at first glance, it seems like everything is covered in either pavement or an apartment tower. The concrete jungle is not exactly the backdrop one imagines as a honeybee heaven. When I got my first batch of bees on a blustery Easter morning— the buzzing package headed for my Brooklyn rooftop—I was skeptical that my new hobby made any sense. Would my bees starve? Would they get sick? Would they annoy my neighbors? But the real reason my current occupation is so strange is that for most of my life, I was afraid of bees. Terrified. When I think back to my first experience with the tiny, mighty European honeybee—a.k.a. Apis mellifera—I can say with certainty that it was not a “Eureka!” moment. Or at least it was not a good one. I was about six, and I was playing barefoot in a weedy field of clover and dandelion behind the apartment complex in Baltimore where I lived. I was jolted by three sudden pinpricks, which evolved into a searing, pulsating pain that engulfed my entire foot. I ran home, crying and confused, and burst through my front door, red faced and hysterical. I didn’t know what could have caused that sort of pain, but it was certainly something devilish. But my Grandma Dorothy calmly sat me down and pointed out the stingers, which I know so well today, still lodged in the top of my foot with the telltale venom sac of a honeybee still attached. With the blunt edge of a kitchen knife, she knowingly scraped them out and anointed my plump, red foot with baking soda paste. (“Scrape; never pinch,” she told me. It’s the cardinal rule in removing a bee stinger, or else you’ll force more venom into your bloodstream.) In the end, my dramatic first meeting with the honeybee ended in three fatalities—the bees—and a tender, fat foot. Grandma told me that it would hurt for a while, and she was right: It was the most traumatizing thing I had experienced thus far in my short life, and that day I swore that I would never again get anywhere near those ornery things as long as I lived. But, two decades later, there I was in Brooklyn, ordering bees from a fledgling urban bee club and building a hive on the kitchen floor of my apartment. By that point, I’d discovered that urban beekeepers were multiplying in France and the United Kingdom. And I’d learned that bees in the city have just as good a chance as anywhere else to thrive. Urban trees and overgrown lots provide enough nectar and pollen from weeds like yellow sweet clover, curled blooms of gooseneck loostrife, or yellow tufts of goldenrod not just to sustain my bees throughout the seasons but to score me some of their surplus honey. 8 The Rooftop Beekeeper My neighbors hardly notice the busy apiary situated on the rooftop above our heads and, in fact, are reminded of its presence there only when they are gifted small jars of bee goodness in the summertime. That’s Brooklyn honey, and, in case you’re wondering, it is really good! I get asked a lot: “How did you decide to become a beekeeper?” Truth be told, it took a few decades. Things started to change when I got a little older and began spending more time visiting my family’s farm, a 450-acre parcel outside of Lynchburg, Virginia. Until I was a teenager, my mom, baby sister, and I would go to the farm every summer when school let out. It was always a total alien experience; I was a Baltimore city kid through and through, but this vast, quiet place with its verdure and its kindly people grew on me. I began to think of it as a second home. My family in Virginia had held on to a tradition that us city kin had long since abandoned. They grew and raised a significant amount of what they cooked, and they really seemed to savor it when it came time to eat it. It didn’t hurt that my Aunt Joanne was a great country cook: Most of the savory things she made were flavored with salty bacon fat rendered from the pigs the family had raised and sent off to be butchered and cured nearby. Jams and jellies were made right there in her kitchen, put up in jars, and kept in the cellar under her house until they were ready to eat. I had my first vine-ripe, homegrown tomato on an early trip to Virginia. It was shocking to me—a kid who hated tomatoes that weren’t in the form of spaghetti sauce or ketchup. They were wonderfully flavorful and juicy and not at all mealy and bland like the ones topping the fast-food burgers I was used to. But at Aunt Joanne’s house, you could find them on the kitchen table at each meal, sliced and lightly salted. I’d eat them sandwiched between two pieces of fresh baked bread with a little smear of smoky bacon grease. I never looked at a tomato the same way again. But even more important, the farm taught me to understand where my tomato came from and to realize that I was capable of making it, not just buying it. A few years later, I signed the lease on my first house, a rustic limestone structure built for the sailmakers that worked in factories along the Jones Falls in Maryland. The house dated back to the 1840s, and it had three fireplaces and wooden plank floors. It was wonderfully old and dank. You could feel the spirits of generations of transplanted Appalachian mill workers emanating from the worn wood floors and plaster walls. But what I reveled in most was the sunny private backyard and the opportunity to grow food for real. I wanted more than just a couple of tomatoes and some herbs in containers; I wanted to stop buying substandard produce from supermarkets, save money, and be more like my Aunt Joanne. So I grew okra, lettuce, peas, peppers, summer and winter squash, tomatoes, and herbs in varieties that I had never seen or tasted before. I was surprised at how successful it was and how at ease I felt working outdoors. Once I began harvesting vegetables, I had to figure out what to do with them. This was challenging: I still felt like an inexperienced cook, and after spending weeks coddling my kale as it was growing in the ground, I didn’t want to ruin it. So I started relying on recipe books that my mother always had around but never really used. The Joy of Cooking, Fannie Farmer Cookbook . . . you know, old-school cookbooks. I’d spent time as a child lying on the floor dreamily flipping through pages of these like they were teen magazines, and now I was finally putting them to use. And once I got comfortable with my oldschool kitchen skills, I started to wing it. What does all that have to do with bees? In the garden, I’d started to notice that certain crops, like my butternuts, had different flowers. Male flowers with longer stalks didn’t end up producing fruit, but the female flowers closer to the vine would wither and a small bulb—the start of a squash!—would appear in their place. But, I noticed, this would only happen if an insect, maybe a bee, had visited a male flower first, coating themselves with the vibrant dust we call pollen before inadvertently transferring it to a female blossom. I started to pay attention to similar crops, the ones that rely on pollination to produce: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, berries, cucumbers, melons. . . . As a garden-obsessed adult, I’d finally accepted that bees weren’t actually vicious at all, largely because I hadn’t been stung since that first time. The bees kept to themselves, resolutely bound to their eternal task of finding food. I stayed out of their way; they stayed out of mine. As a result, I got over How a City Girl Got Stung 9 my bee anxiety, and I could appreciate them from a distance. And I began to wonder, where have all the honeybees gone? Why am I not seeing as many as I remember running away from as a kid? I wouldn’t have an answer to that complicated question for years. Especially because my next hobby wasn’t bees, but home brewing. But life, as it so happens, has a funny way of sometimes bringing the right path to you even if you are too oblivious to head down it on your own. As it happens, I was drinking homemade beer and eating cheap pizza with some other nerds at a home brew meet-up in the back of a liquor store in the boondocks, and I met a beekeeper who made his own mead, or honey wine, from the liquid gold harvested from his very own apiary. That’s really cool, I thought. And then I sampled it, reluctantly. It wasn’t the saccharine swill I was expecting based on an earlier sample in high school, when I jokingly referenced Beowulf while choking down the overly sweet, astringent liquid. This man’s mead was a different kind of beast altogether. It was made from the cured nectar of bees who fed from the tulip poplar tree. It was sweet, yes, but it was also berrylike, even juicy. I had to know more. I picked this beekeeper’s brain over those bad pepperoni and cheese slices, starting with mead but quickly turning to his second craft—managing stacked boxes of those flying, venomous insects that still freaked me out. I had never understood just how interesting bees were until he started dropping knowledge for me. Finally, visibly agitated with my endless barrage of questions, 10 The Rooftop Beekeeper he suggested that I sign up for a short course on beekeeping offered at the nature center just down the road from where we were drinking beer. That winter I enrolled. It was a foursession, twelve-hour beginner’s course— one night a week—taught by the state apiary inspector. I learned the ins and outs of keeping a beehive; honeybee anatomy; procuring a “package,” the name for a complete set of bees that arrives at your doorstep; and, the most exciting part to me at the time, harvesting the honey. Even though I wondered how I would feel about them when I was finally stung again—which is inevitable for a beekeeper—in the spring, I decided I would keep some bees of my own upon the stone wall that surrounded my garden. I could see them floating from bloom to bloom, pollinating my vegetable garden and doubling my harvests. But just when I began to game plan, I was offered a job in New York City. It was unexpected but, like most people, I jumped at the chance to try a different life on for size. I traded in my shovel and trowel for a MetroCard and a messenger bag and headed off to the big city. My transition to living in an even bigger city went pretty smoothly, at least at first. I had a good job working for a small company in a trendy part of Manhattan. I landed a great apartment in an up-andcoming Brooklyn neighborhood. I made enough money that I could drink overpriced cocktails and artisan-crafted beer at hipster bars and eat at all of my favorite restaurants every night of the week. By all accounts I was living the life, but some kind of void left me staring at my ceiling in bed each night wondering what in the hell I was doing with myself. Work, spend, sleep. Work, spend, sleep. It was a routine that really clashed with my conscience. In the largest, most populous city in the country, I managed to feel disconnected from the world. In an attempt to fix what felt broken in my life, I ended up doing what most sensible people do in my position: I thought back to the time when I was the most fulfilled and hopeful. That was when I was working in the garden and growing my own food; when I had a real sense of home. Intensive gardening was a strange passion for a young person living in a city that never sleeps, but it was what I needed and, by God, I was going to have it again if it was the last thing I did. Luckily things just sort of fell into place. The building I lived in was sold to two young women who promptly tore down the shoddy above-ground pool that had claimed our backyard. A plan coalesced: We were going to build raised beds for a garden. And they offered those of us in the building rooftop access, so we could go up and enjoy our view of midtown Manhattan across the East River. It was like the cosmos had heard my wishes. But the most serendipitous moment came a few weeks after we first planted our city crops. I was standing in line at a health food store during my lunch break, and I read an article about New Yorkers breaking the law and keeping bees. I burst through the door back at my office, beaming at my co-workers who had spent the last few months listening to me go on and on about my Brooklyn garden. “Look!” I said, waving the magazine. “You guys won’t believe this! I’ve found my people. Beekeepers here, of all places!” I was elated, but I was still skeptical I’d ever be able to join their ranks. You’ve got to be either terribly lucky or terribly sneaky to put hives on your roof without anyone knowing or caring, I thought. I couldn’t imagine deceiving anyone and getting away with it, so I was up-front with my landlords about my plan. I was blown away when they took very little convincing, even given beekeeping’s illegality at the time. “We like honey,” they told me. “If you say it’s safe, let’s do it! Put ’em on the roof.” Even my neighbors didn’t seem to mind. Most of them were Polish immigrants, who were used to beekeeping. I promptly started going to meetings of a local beekeeping group. People from all walks of life would come to our monthly gatherings. Some had bees, but many just wanted them. Potential apiarists would show up with questions; those who already kept bees had stories to share. It was a comfort to find myself in the company of people who didn’t find the need to have a little piece of the country in the city all that strange. A group of us got together and put in our orders for hive equipment, tools, and bees. One by one, we helped each other assemble our hives as they arrived in the form of unpainted, stacked planks of pine, all wrapped tightly with plastic. I constructed mine with help from my boyfriend, both of us assigned the tedious task of gluing and tacking How a City Girl Got Stung 11 frames together on my kitchen floor. I set up the hive in my living room and imagined what it would look like with bees in it, little foragers zooming from their home, out into the world and back. I longed for my bees, and I didn’t even have them yet. This was quite a change from the bee-fearing young woman I’d been just a few years before. In fact, when my first package of bees was delivered to my doorstep by a beekeeping friend one blustery Easter morning—within it a pulsing, buzzing mass of wings and venom—I was shaking like a leaf from excitement. I hadn’t slept a wink; I couldn’t recall being that rattled by anticipation before. I gingerly carried the box up through the hatch in my roof to the empty shell that would soon be the bees’ home. The rising sun illuminated the face of the hive—“bring them to me,” it seemed to smile—and I felt the crackle of something magical. What I was about to do felt right. I sprayed down the ventilated part of the box of bees with sugar syrup as I’d been taught, my hands pink and numb from early April’s chill. I took my shiny, stillvirgin hive tool, and pried off the thin sheet of plywood covering the opening. I removed the queen cage and the can of syrup that had been sustaining my bees while they were in transit, and then I inverted the whole thing over my open hive. With a hearty downward swoosh, I officially began life as a beekeeper. I’ve seen a lot and learned even more since that morning. I’ve expanded my own home apiary to three hives. I’ve started managing hives for other people, too: restaurants, urban farms, and even 12 The Rooftop Beekeeper primetime TV shows. I’ve harvested massive quantities of honey and sold them to support my hobby. I’ve seen bees survive the winter to beget new colonies and new queens. I’ve cleaned out dead hives, misty-eyed at my failure to keep them alive. I’ve shaken swarms out of trees only to have them fly off to live in some fallen tree or brick wall. Every mistake, success, heartbreak, and victory has me more in love with the honeybee than I ever imagined I could be. I can’t even look at a photograph of a bee without welling up with affection. Luckily my love for bees has not gone unnoticed. I’ve had the opportunity to teach introductory beekeeping classes in New York City to new legions of wanna-bees, and now I’ve been given this chance to share what I’ve learned with you and many others. Hopefully I can not only pass on some knowledge but also plant a seed of passion and affection for the magical creatures that do so much for us and ask for nothing in return except, well, to “just bee.” That’s why in this book I focus on “minimally invasive” hive management practices. I believe that bees know more about how to be bees than we do: To my mind, facilitating their long-term survival takes precedence over increasing their usefulness as pollinators or producers of a high-value commodity like honey. This is not the way everyone keeps bees, but plenty of information about other, more-involved methods of hive maintenance already exist out there. (Some of them are listed in the Resources, page 168, in case you want to decide for yourself.) It is my opinion that the other end results of beekeeping—honey and pollination—will come on their own if your bees are hardy and resilient. It’s my goal to persuade you to grow strong bees, as many of them are not so strong these days. Honeybees are getting pummeled from all sides, from pesticides, new diseases, stress from being transported great distances for commercial pollination, a lack of adequate nutrition in their food sources, or even a lack of genetic diversity. As hobbyists, it truly is within our power to help them. beekeepers; you will find many who will have your back when something happens that you feel you can’t handle alone. But it’s also to every beekeeper’s benefit to adapt the advice you are given; you have to decide what works best in the context of your own lifestyle and your own bees. The bees will tell you what they need, if you are listening. In the meantime, just remember that all beekeepers make mistakes; the best of us learn from them. Don’t let the fear of failure stand in your way, ever. Still, if you’re worried that you can’t keep bees healthy because you don’t live in the country, as you’ll read in the very first chapter, cities can actually be some of the best places to keep a few hives. Unlike keepers living in rural towns, we city dwellers don’t have to worry about pesticides from conventional farms spraying their fields. Rooftop hives also get ample sun and dry out faster after heavy rains; the ability to more-easily regulate temperature and humidity means bees with fewer diseases. But more important, at least from my point of view, urban apiaries give city dwellers an opportunity to commune with the natural world in a small but very profound way. It’s my hope that as you read this book— learning about bee anatomy, colony management, or honey collection—you’ll grow confident enough to plan your own urban apiary. Be fearless; simply do it. This book is meant to be a primer for making it happen. In fact, it follows my own decades-long path to becoming a beekeeper—from daydreaming to reading to doing. So get ready to score yourself a smoker, a veil, and a hive tool— and, even more important, your very own honeybees. Just be prepared; you might fall in love with being a beekeeper when you least expect it. In fact, in chapter 1, I talk about another community—the other beekeepers in your region—and the importance of staying in touch with this group. If you do decide to keep bees, don’t close yourself off. If you were to comb through this book and every other book on the market, rest assured you’d still have questions and real obstacles to overcome. That’s when to turn to other “You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.” – Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette How a City Girl Got Stung 13 CHAPTER 1: Why Keep Bees? Here’s Why You Should Consider Becoming an Urban Apiarist When I teach Urban Beekeeping 101, I start the class the same way every time: I list the full spectrum of good things honeybees have to offer. Why start with the positives instead of all the real strategic considerations of running an urban apiary? Sitting nervously in front of me are at least a dozen people who want to keep bees, and I want them to do it! This chapter, in essence, is my sales pitch, and it mirrors my classroom presentations. If any of the following strikes a chord, then you should seriously consider becoming a beekeeper. REASON #1: THE COMMUNITY Cities can be a tough place to practice self-reliance. When I first mentioned my desire to keep bees on my rooftop to my older Brooklyn friends, I got a fair share of head shaking if not outright dismissal. I had already been growing vegetables in raised beds in my 800-square-foot backyard; that was something they all could appreciate, especially when boxes of sweet little currant tomatoes accompanied my visits to their apartments. But bees? At the time, these so-called friends seemed to think I was losing touch with normalcy: “You should just move to the country if you want to do stuff like this,” they told me. “It’s crazy.” Beekeeping has long held a reputation for being a pretty solitary hobby, a pastime meant for the backwater. When most people close their eyes and conjure up somebody who keeps bees, they no doubt visualize some rickety white-haired geezer way out in the country wearing a pair of dirty overalls . . . or some extreme apiarist wearing a beard of bees. And, until now, that maybe wasn’t too far from the truth: Currently, the average age of career beekeepers in America is around sixty. But that’s all changing, especially in cities where an ever-growing crop of young people are becoming ever more enthusiastic about supporting the local-food movement. We’re all becoming more aware of how our food is made and at what price, ethically and environmentally. We are also beginning to command a better product as a 16 The Rooftop Beekeeper response. And a lot of us want to know our daily decisions at our corner store do more than merely minimize damage to the environment: We want to feel like we are improving the world in some way. The next generation of hobbyists often falls well under the age of forty, and the people you’ll see enrolled in beekeeping, gardening, or composting classes are a diverse and modern lot concerned not with keeping the modern world out but with what sort of world their children will inherit. Many beekeepers see our hobby as a way to make a positive contribution to our immediate environment, especially given the other agrarian limitations of city life. And why can’t we have the best of both worlds, meaning access to the rich culture and diversity of urban life as well as to homegrown food and relative self-sufficiency? It turns out that you can. I found loads of folks who would become my friends and allies in less than a year—people who had started a rooftop-farm education program, others who were running a collective of community farming sites, another group turning empty schoolyards into productive plots or shady community gardens into chicken coops where eggs were going for double the supermarket price per dozen. When the rest of my twenty-something peers thought I was out of my gourd, a small, but quickly growing, group of urban farmers were there to cheer me on, lend a helping hand, and then afterward, share dinner or have a few beers. Plus, as a beekeeper, I was a vital link in their chain of urban gardens and farms. My team of fuzzy pollinators would help to increase the yields on all fruit- and seed-producing crops growing within three miles (or more!) of my hives. Thanks to my bees, pepper blooms were pollinated as fast as they opened, while squash plants grew heavy with fruits later in the summer. Herbs flowered and went to seed, allowing frugal backyard gardeners to save them for next year’s gardens. But you probably already knew from grade school that bees play an undeniably critical role in the cycle of plant life and reproduction. What you may not have expected is that they will also play a role in your connection to the people around you. And that’s just the urban agriculture scene. Another community I connected with was that of foodies and other culinary creative-types. Local chefs, retailers, and other food sellers are some of the first customers an urban beekeeper will have. The honey from my Brooklyn bees was a highly Bee clubs are an excellent place to get your hands in a hive before deciding to commit to a colony of your own. Why Keep Bees? 17 BROOKLYN’S URBAN FARMING COMMUNITY Where I live, you’ll find a burgeoning community of like-minded folks working their fingers to the bone to prove that you can grow wholesome, fresh food in backyards, unused lots, and neighborhoods where there typically is little or no land. And there likely is a similar group of people where you live, too. Some do it for fun, others to feed and challenge themselves, and some to empower their neighbors and build strong communities. Still others do it to improve public health in food deserts, those neighborhoods where corner stores, gas stations, and delis are the only businesses selling food. As a local beekeeper, I am lucky enough to get to work with almost all of these people. sought-after commodity, thanks to its rarity and its distinctive flavor. In my first season harvesting honey, I scored invites to set up tastings at local artisan food markets where I met an amazing array of enthusiastic chefs and entrepreneurs. I got offers to have my honey served at well-respected restaurants. Chefs and business owners started asking me to help them with their own rooftop bees so they could offer house honey on their menus. From there, I started teaching classes for those who wanted to learn more. In fact, just mention that you might keep bees or produce local honey to someone with a culinary background and watch them light up and demand to know more. And they would be right to want to know. Everything about the process of honey making is not just intriguing but also really cool. From the way the bees 18 The Rooftop Beekeeper forage to the way we harvest the honey, it’s all magical to almost anybody with taste buds. The best part of the experience is the sense of time and place— some people call that terroir—that you get when you taste your homegrown product for the first time. Contemplating bees is fun for a few, but honey is loved by nearly everyone. Hand a stranger a lovely jar of honeycomb or a piece of good bread dripping with honey that you’ve harvested yourself, and you can count on not just a smile but also a new friend. One “agtivist” in my community is Stacey Murphy, founder of BK Farmyards, who took the idea of the community garden a step further than the rest: to the backyard. “New York City has more than 52,000 acres of backyards,” says Stacey. “That’s a lot of space to grow healthful food! BK Farmyards gives these existing green spaces the additional use of food production. As a network, these farmyards are reproducible, cost effective, and beautiful.” In addition to establishing decentralized garden projects throughout Brooklyn’s underutilized backyards and schoolyards, Stacey has also created a fifty-hen egg communitysupported agriculture (CSA) project and a beekeeping project, as pollination is such a critical element for urban growing. The apiaries that Stacey establishes near her minifarms help ensure that the farms produce an abundant crop of vegetables. Good harvests not only will help feed the community each season but also will provide seeds for lower-cost seasons to come. While Stacey goes to backyards, other Brooklyn farmers I’ve helped take their operations to the skies. Annie Novak of Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, for instance, is the co-founder and steward of a 6,000-square-foot green roof that produces an array of vegetables, herbs, and flowers for local restaurants and residents. The farm also hosts three apiaries, a small flock of egg-laying hens, and a nest of rabbits. Utilizing elements of permaculture, she’s created a miniecosystem where one would otherwise not exist. In this system, the livestock devour vegetative debris and turn it into valuable, nutrient-rich compost, while the bees I helped to install assist in pollinating Annie’s market crops. Some farms continue to push the envelope. Take the thirty-hive urban bee yard operated by my friends at another massive rooftop farm called Brooklyn Grange. This apiary will not only serve as a way to produce honey on a much bigger scale for Brooklyn, but it already functions as a place to educate new beekeepers and raise even more bees adapted to urban life. REASON #2: POLLINATION ACROSS THE NATION Pollinators like honeybees or the bumblebee here are essential in a plant’s ability to self-propagate. As wonderful as it is to make new friends or develop a sense of community, these are probably not reasons enough to keep bees. But how about adding “feeding the planet” to that list? Bees perform a duty that far surpasses that of a popularity magnet or even of making sweet honey: The primary and most beneficial function of the honeybee is pollination. For plants to produce fruit and seeds—which include the fruits Why Keep Bees? 19 and vegetables we eat—they have to be pollinated. Pollination is what happens when a few grains of protein-rich pollen (scientists call those “gametes”) go from the stamen, or male flower part, to the stigma, or female flower part. What happens next? The flower bud swells into a tomato or chile or cucumber or peach or strawberry—a recognizable fruit or a seedpod, in other words. Not only do we get to eat them, but also the plant can multiply or propagate itself for future seasons through those seeds. This is one of the most vital components of plant reproduction, and many plants can’t do it without the assistance of a pollinator. Of course, honeybees are not the only natural pollinators out there; other valuable pollinators include wind, flies, birds, butterflies, hornets, and wasps, as well as different species of bees. But honeybees are special because each bee colony has a ton of them, making them a boon to any plants needing pollination within a few miles or kilometres of their home. The honeybee is the most efficient pollinator on the planet. In fact, one of every three bites of food we take is the direct result of insect pollination. It’s an idea you might have heard before—especially with recent articles about the plight of the honeybee—but it bears repeating. Orchard fruits, berries, nuts, a wide array of vegetables, and even cotton require the instinctive behavior of bees to help them pass forth their genetics into the future. Real farmers get a significant increase in yield when commercial bee pollination enters the equation, and the increase 20 The Rooftop Beekeeper in those yields can mean the difference between a profitable farm and one that fails. Without bees, we consumers truly can expect to see higher prices for food and possibly even shortages of food, which, over time, can have very serious consequences for our ever-growing world population. But even for the home gardener, bees in the community can mean the difference between a meager harvest and a bumper crop. Fruits on properly pollinated plants tend to be fuller and bigger and more healthy, which means more to put on your plate. REASON #3: FORGING THE HUMAN CONNECTION TO FOOD You’ve probably heard of chef Alice Waters, writer Michael Pollan, and maybe even writer and farmer Joel Salatin. Or perhaps you’ve seen films like Food, Inc. or King Corn that highlight the precarious nature of our current food system. These are some of the most well–known activists and projects pushing for more localized, sustainable food systems and fewer food miles or kilometres. (If you haven’t heard of them, I suggest that any prospective beekeeper check them out.) As these speakers, writers, and films will tell you over and over again, many commercially available seeds have been genetically modified to withstand heavy insecticide use, farmworkers are constantly exposed

Author Megan Paska Isbn 9781452107585 File size 41.9MB Year 2014 Pages 176 Language English File format PDF Category Hobbies Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare The number of urban beekeepers has escalated with more than 25 percent increases year over year in the United States and the United Kingdom. From a go-to authority on beekeeping and backyard farming, The Rooftop Beekeeper is the first handbook to explore the ease and charm of keeping bees in an urban environment. This useful manual— at once a good read and a pretty object—features a relatable first-person narrative, checklists, numbered how-tos, beautiful illustrations and 75 color photographs. Covering all aspects of urban beekeeping, this book also provides readers with plenty of sweet recipes for delicious treats, tonics, and beauty products to make with home-harvested honey.     Download (41.9MB) Do Beekeeping: The Secret To Happy Honey Bees The Thinking Beekeeper: A Guide to Natural Beekeeping in Top Bar Hives Beginning Beekeeping: Everything You Need to Make Your Hive Thrive! Backyard Farming: Keeping Honey Bees The Beginner’s Guide to Beekeeping: Everything You Need to Know Load more posts

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