On a rooftop a few dozen blocks south of my apartment, there's a beehive. The hive's owner, a woman named Susan, keeps what she described as an Italian species of bee, Carniolans. (In reality, the species is from Slovenia.) Pedigree aside (we are talking about the tony Upper West Side, after all), Carniolans have other traits to recommend them. They're more docile, for example, and more resistant to certain diseases. They are also more prone to swarming.
This week, The New York Times reported that bee swarms are increasingly appearing around the city.
This spring in New York City, clumps of homeless bees have turned up, often in inconvenient public places, at nearly double the rate of past years. A warm winter followed by an early spring, experts say, has created optimal breeding conditions. That may have caught some beekeepers off guard, especially those who have taken up the practice in recent years.
There's a link between hive overcrowding and swarming. When a hive becomes too crowded, bees can be displaced. New beekeepers, the Times suggests, can be unprepared to deal with a number of bees suddenly looking for a place to stay. The New York City real estate market is tough for everyone.
Bee swarms are frightening. Several weeks ago, my wife and I encountered one on a light pole in Central Park. An audible hum; a teeming mass orbited by a few stragglers. We did what anyone would do: took pictures, Instagrammed them, quickly moved on. (See above!)