Part of the allure of beekeeping is its relative simplicity. For about $300 to $400 (the cost of a hive and some bees), a little bit of setup, and some minimal poking around every few weeks, you may very well end up like Brooklyn beekeeper Amy Azzarito did: with enough honey to make nougat candy for Christmas and honey ice cream in the summer, and to give small jars away as gifts.
“It’ll make you very popular at work when you come bearing jars of honey,” says Azzarito.
The basics of beekeeping can be picked up in a class; Coté teaches one in New York, for instance, and helped his students score bees from Georgia. The information can also be gleaned from books like Beekeeping for Dummies. Though beekeepers do get stung (in one rare instance, Coté was stung hundreds of times), beekeeping isn’t as painful or as dangerous as you’d expect. Beekeepers learn little tricks for keeping the insects calm: Besides using the smoker, they avoid wearing perfume or eating bananas, the scents of which attract the bees.
Like a number of beekeepers with city hives, Christine Lehner has found a market for honey billed as coming from local, New York City bees. Hers is sold under the label Let It Bee, in a very visible (even flagrant) display at the popular Murray’s Cheese store in Greenwich Village. It has a slightly minty flavor. But does it taste different—more edgy perhaps—than honey from, say, Hastings-on-Hudson, where Lehner lives and keeps other hives?
“Not really,” says Lehner. “Blindfolded, I don’t think I could tell the difference.”
Ed. Note: Beekeeping was legalized in New York in March 2010.
Photographs by Galen Krumel