Last week, a funny little group of aspiring and successful urban farmers, bee nerds and wanna-bees gathered on the rooftop of Brooklyn Grange, an acre-sized rooftop farm located in Queens, NY for the first meeting of the Backwards Beekeepers of New York City.
What we lacked in population, we made up for in spirit. We had with us such a wonderful assortment of talent and experience level in beekeeping: Sam Comfort of Anarchy Apiaries came down from the Hudson Valley to regale the group with stories of formic acid burns and swarm catching and started the whole talk with a ditty about an aquatic ant who can save the world. Guitar strings were broken, then came the storm we had all been fearing.
The skies had been opening up off and on all day, even up to the few minutes before the meeting. When we got started the horizon was fairly clear with the exception of some ominous clouds in the distance. Immediately after Sam’s song (which I am convince willed the storm to us) marble-sized hail began to fall, the wind began to whip around and lightening sent us running off of the roof to an open warehouse space a couple floors below.
It was dusty, it was dark. We sat on cardboard boxes on the floor in a big circle. It was like a Die Hard movie gone wrong. We were certainly starting our foray into Backwards-ness on the right foot. If the other NYC bee clubs could see us, they’d certainly have a chuckle at our expense. Let them. We were having a really good time.
Sam finished up his talk and shared his idea for a pay-it-forward beekeeping program and a swarm trap initiative. We got some volunteers for implementing both. Afterwards Tim O’Neal said a few words about never losing your sense of wonder and aspirations to learn more about bees. You never will know it all, so why not just get used to it or even revel in it?
That segued into talk of the basic tenets of Backwards Beekeeping. In a nutshell, that bees know how to be bees better than we know how to manipulate them into bee-ing...so just let ‘em bee! It seemed to resonate with the crowd in attendance, most of whom grow or buy organic food and bike all over NYC as opposed to driving. You know--low-impact folk.
At the end of the meeting, Michael Leung, a rooftop beekeeper from Hong Kong spoke about his project HK Honey and his excitement at learning more about this method of beekeeping (he keeps Apis Cerana, or the Asiatic honeybee in HK, all on their own naturally constructed wax so he is one step ahead of the game) and attending more meetings during his stay. We were glad to have him with us.
We ended the meeting and went out for burritos and margaritas together in Brooklyn. It was really a great time. So far, this club feels an awful lot like a group of friends! The camaraderie was almost instantaneous.
Our next meeting will be at the end of September where we will talk more about propagating bees next Spring. We don’t get as many swarms here as the folks in Los Angeles do, but we want to work on getting people educated about how to get bees that won’t involve buying packages from the south. We hope you will follow our Facebook page to find out details about meetings as they become available. Hope to see many new faces next time!