Ruth visits the Brooklyn Grange Bees

Los Angeles Backwards Beekeeper Ruth writes:

Last week I visited family in New York and was able to attend an "Apprentice Day" of the Brooklyn Grange Bees.

Brooklyn Grange Bees (BGBees) is a brand of the Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm, the largest rooftop farm in the world! The apprenticeship program is just a cool side project of the BGBees.

Tim O'Neal of BoroughBees joined on to specifically design and execute the apprenticeship program,and he was there, bare-hands-on, working with the newbies.

Also with the group that day was Chase Emmons, Managing Partner, Chief Beekeeper, and Director of Special Projects for the Grange Farm. Chase and Tim are both founding members of the Backwards Beekeepers of New York City, and they practice treatment-free beekeeping with the BGBees as well.

The meeting gathered its members in a hip cafe in Building 92 of the old Navy Yard in Brooklyn. The group chatted and drank coffee while waiting for everyone to show up.

This was a meeting not of the Bee Club per se, but rather of the 12 lucky individuals who were chosen from over 175 applicants to be Apprentice Beekeepers. They will learn how to take care of the club's 40-some hives. They and their mentors had met several times already at the cub's Navy Yard Apiary, to switch out frames and hive boxes from a group of 10- year old hives which were purchased for this purpose.

We shared the few vehicles and carpooled across an expanse of asphalt to the empty lot where the hives were located. In spite of the fact of all the concrete the apiary is on a sweet little plot of undeveloped land adjacent to the East River and backed by stands of pine and poplar.

Though the BGBees crew takes care to keep anyone from wandering into the hive yard and getting stung , I was about to be completely blown away by how docile and basically non- stinging these bees were!

East Coast beekeepers only use bottom boards that are screened to increase ventilation in the seriously humid heat of the warm months.But in winter they have to switch out their screen bottoms to solid ones to protect bees from the extreme cold! Tim tells me the eastern bees make a lot more honey than our local western ones, because there is no winter foraging so they have to make enough food when they can. In winter they stay inside a lot!

The bees had originally been purchased in packages from local bee-raisers by a farmer years ago, who lost interest in them and left them to the elements. The result: bees that had built and rebuilt so many times on the same comb that they basically regressed themselves over the course of a decade. And so we have Non-feral Small Cell Local Survivor Stock Bees that (almost) don't sting. Am I jealous? More than a little.

Notice, no protective gear. There was a very relaxed vibe in the bee yard. The bees did not glom onto anybody. There were two stings however; one was from Tim scooping up a double handfull of bees which he dumped gleefully into my bare hands! The sting came when he tried to do it a second time!

Here is Tim marking a queen with this year's international queen marking color for 2012, yellow. He made it look easy.

Here's Tim's favorite hive tool! Check out those teeth. It's from somewhere in Europe.

By cooperating with the Brooklyn Grange Farm, the New York Backwards Beekeepers are able to benefit from the umbrella of a very large, well known organization. Their apprentice hives were purchased with the help of a Kickstarter project. What an amazing group of people!


Bonus: here's a time-lapse video of the first bees being installed on the roof of the Brooklyn Grange Farm's new space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.