Swarming the Rooftops
The end of New York’s urban beekeeping ban wrought hundreds of honey-making hobbyists. But even the movement’s most fervent supporters wonder if it has grown too far too fast.
On a cloudless June morning, Jon Huang, wearing a white veil and protective gear, leads me up a spiral staircase to a New York rooftop that is home to seventy thousand bees.
He sets alight some old newspapers to prime the smoker, a stainless steel device with bellows. When blown into the hive, the smoke masks the pheromones and other chemicals that bees use to navigate in defense of their hive, decreasing their aggressiveness.
Each hive contains stacked wooden chambers called supers–Huang’s Italian bees inhabit six, the Russians, four–within which ten frames are set vertically. As the smoker takes effect, Huang pries open the first chamber with a hive tool, lifts its cover gently, and begins blowing in smoke to calm the bees.
Inside, the frames teem with activity. Honey-engorged bees begin flying from the hive. Some seem disoriented and ricochet off my chest or land lazily on the veil Huang lent me. Others appear filled with a distinct sense of purpose, charting a n…
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