Sandy wipes out biggest beekeeping operation in New York City
Casualties of Hurricane Sandy included 1 million unfortunate bees at the Brooklyn Grange’s Navy Yard urban farming project. Twenty-five hives each containing around 40,000 bees were torn apart Monday night.
“All our hives that were out on the pier were destroyed,” said Chase Emmons, a managing partner and the chief beekeeper at Brooklyn Grange.
An additional 10 hives located on Brooklyn Grange’s rooftop farm survived — but the loss is catastrophic for the city’s largest apiary. Emmons knew before the storm that the hives were at risk.
“There was little we could do without a Herculean effort,” he said.
What’s most heartbreaking, said Emmons, is that all of the lost hives were donated by a retired Pennsylvania beekeeper last year — so they housed extra-hearty bees with stellar genetics.
“The biggest loss is to our selective breeding genetic program. Our plan is to end up with bees that are well suited to the New York environment,” said Emmons. “This puts us back at least a year.”
The Grange apiary’s genetic breeding program aimed to develop New Yorker bees not just for the Grange, but for other local beekeepers as well. From the project’s website:
In addition to hive products, Brooklyn Grange Bees is engaged in a beekeeping apprenticeship program, and a queen bee breeding program that will ultimately supply the NYC beekeeping community with local bees. Up until now, beekeepers in the NYC area have had to purchase their bees from the southeastern United States. Disease, winter survivability, and poor temperament are all issues that plague this system and result in beekeepers losing hives each year. BGBees is selectively breeding queens to create a genetic strain of bees that thrive in the unique NYC environment. These bees are proven to be disease resistant, are hardy enough to survive cold winters, and are mild in temperament.
The Grange’s apiary had just raised more than $22,000 through a Kickstarter campaign six months ago (watching the Kickstarter video is one of the saddest things you can do today). The project was intended to produce honey at the Grange (1,000 pounds a year!) and pollinate plants in the surrounding area.
The Grange farmers sound relatively optimistic for a bunch of people who just lost so much. “You’ve got to come back stronger,” one told The Brooklyn Paper.
Brooklyn's definitive hurricane liveblog, The Brooklyn Paper.