The Feedback Farm Bees

Bees hanging out in their habitat on our farm
Though occupying no more than a thin slice of a Brooklyn lot, Feedback Farms still has some local residents: snails, caterpillars and, inside a stack of drawers looking like a nightstand, a colony of bees.

Fear not! They don't sting if you don't bug 'em. Feedback'er Kellen Henry (@kellenhenry), our own queen of the queens and the brains behind our bee operation, gave us the scoop on what a bee hive is doing on a farm in high-density residential Brooklyn:

Kellen Henry

They're Brooklyn Bees, like you...
Even with six legs, compound eyes, honey-making enzymes and apitoxin stingers, the honey bees of Brooklyn have a lot in common with the rest of us Brooklynites

Honey bees are old-school 
Honey bees have been around for about 20 million years and humans have been cultivating bees since pre-historic times. Beekeeping makes an appearance in 8,000-year-old cave paintings, Egyptian tombs and just about every ancient religious text. Old. School.

They’re into group housing
A single hive can house between 30,000 - 50,000 bees at a given time. Bees are superorganisms – they can’t survive as individuals and they have highly specialized division of labor. They communicate through pheromones, rather than passive-aggressive roommate notes.

Bees like to break it down
When pheromones aren’t enough, bees turn to dance. Forager bees perform the figure-8 waggle dance to share information about the direction and distance of good nectar and pollen sources.

Bees like to chill too
They're lookin' to reproducing 
A queen bee can lay up to 2,000 eggs a day. Take that, Park Slopers. Virgin queens go out on mating flights only once in their lives, during which they may mate with 12-15 male drone bees in the air. The queen then uses selective sperm release to populate the hive. Fertilized eggs become female worker bees. Unfertilized eggs become male drone bees.  

They're total foodies
Bees are the OG of locavorism. They typically forage for nectar in the 2 mile radius of the hive, but can go further. Bees suck nectar out of flowering plants with their straw-like tongues. They turn nectar into honey using enzymes in their mouths and "honey stomachs" and store it in honeycomb, fanning their wings to remove excess moisture. Local plants give honey it's "terroir," including flavor and color. Some find hyperlocal honey innocultes them against local pollen allergies. 

They like to keep cool by stoop-sitting
It's called "bearding." (No, not like that.) When it’s hot and humid, bees sometimes cluster on the outside of the hive, fanning their wings to circulate air. If it’s really toasty, the bees may remain on the outside of the hive through the night. Block party!

Want to learn more about bees and beekeeping?
I’m usually at the hive a couple of evenings a week. Get in touch and join me for a hive inspection!
Our bees' home
Time: Keeping bees requires several hours a week per hive, more at busy times of year. Don't bee alone! Sign up for a class that includes an intro to hive management and bee biology, join a meetup group to connect with fellow enthusiasts and do plenty of reading on your own!

Location: Find a place for your hive that’s easy to access, safe from the elements and out of sight of vandals and curious pets/children. Remember, if you have to climb up a up a rickety latter or go to another borough, you're less likely to put in the time. You'll also miss out on the wonderful experience of just sitting back and watching your bees fly. 

Cost: It will run you about $300 to get set up initially with bees, woodenware and tools. You could easily spend much more at the big outfitters, so make sure you've got a good understanding of the essentials before breaking out your credit card. Beekeeping group also often invest in pricy equipment -- like honey extractors -- that members can rent or borrow.

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