Urban dwellers across America are discovering the joys of beekeeping, a practice that was illegal until recently in many cities. In addition to providing local honey harvests, beekeeping connects urbanites to the natural world, improves garden productivity, and even aids an ailing species.
"Over the past few years, the honeybee population has experienced an alarming decline," says beekeeper Andrew Cote, referring to the disappearing-hive phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder. "So we can't afford to outlaw beekeeping anywhere. Now, beehives adorn community gardens, balconies, and backyards."
Andrew founded two organizations in New York -- Bees Without Borders and the New York City Beekeepers Association -- partly to make it easier for aspiring beekeepers to give it a try. He estimates that 150 to 200 New Yorkers now tend hives around the city.
Setting Up Your Hive
Andrew recommends setting up a new beehive during the spring, when the queen begins her egg buildup. At that time of year, flowers begin to bud, things begin to grow, and the queen begins to lay more eggs and build up her colony, he says.
Before working with bees, it's important to understand their biology and familiarize yourself with beekeeping basics. (Get a list of web resources from the New York City Beekeepers Association.) If your city has a local beekeeping organization, attend a meeting and ask about beekeeping in your area.
Watch Martha and Wave Hill's Laurel Rimmer give a lesson in backyard beekeeping and honey extraction.