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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Here is mine. I'd love to hear yours!

Sunday, May 16th 2004 was probably the loveliest day of Spring in the New York metropolitan area. I left my apartment on the 27th floor of a high-rise building on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and hailed a yellow cab. Destination? Penn Station. The Long Island Railroad to Northport. Long Island, for my initiation to the Long Island Beekeepers Club!

In my backpack, I hauled:
One pair of white denim cargo pants
One white denim long-sleeve shirt
Four white rubber bands – one for each ankle, one for each wrist
Benadryl pills and ointment
And - a beekeeper’s veil

I was going to my first Long Island Beekeepers Club meeting. I was about to see my very first beehive “in person”. And, I was very excited!

I had read about proper beekeeping garb on Internet web sites. That’s why I packed the white clothes and the rubber bands. I ordered the veil on-line. And, I had found the LIBC on-line as well. Isn’t the Internet great?

I also wore no deodorant, makeup, perfume, or hair spray that could attract unwanted honeybee attention. Also, I had read that bees also don’t like bad breath, and hoped that mine was OK!

On the LIRR train, I thought about the one question I felt that the LIBC members would ask me. Why bees? You live in Manhattan!

Why bees? Well, I’ve always liked honey, and I’ve always wanted to learn about honeybees. When I was little, my Dad took me to my New Jersey hometown’s public library every Saturday morning. The first book I remember taking home from the library was about bees.

One of my favorite toys as a child was a game called “Tickle Bee”. On the box, it said, "He's the little bee who seems alive, as you tickle him from flower to hive!" I never tired of playing Tickle Bee with my Dad, Mom, and younger brother. In fact, I nicknamed my brother “Bee” – short for Brother! And I tortured the poor kid with tickling and buzzing!

A while back, I was browsing the Barnes and Noble bookstore near me, and I found the New York Times bestseller The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. It was wonderful! I went on-line to look for more bee books. I discovered A Book of Bees and A Country Year by Sue Hubbell. These authors described beekeeping as an activity that teaches lessons from nature, contributes to the world, and promotes calm, focus, and a slower, methodical, mindful, even spiritual way of being, compared to the speed and stress of life today. What could sound better to a Manhattanite who’s always been interested in bees!

Last Christmas, I went to the Farmers Market at Union Square, on 14th Street in Manhattan. There, I met beekeeper David Graves, who sells New York City Rooftop Honey at his farm stand. David has beehives on rooftops all over Manhattan. He and his bees have been featured on CNN, in the New York Times, and they are even in the Smithsonian Institution.

New York City Rooftop Honey is delicious! Way better than the Golden Blossom or other supermarket brands I’d enjoyed before. The rooftop bees forage in parks and botanical gardens, hanging baskets on high-rise terraces, and more. There’s plenty of nectar and pollen for them to collect in the city.

Talking beekeeping with David made me realize that it would be possible for me to be an urban beekeeper too. My husband thinks I’m crazy. But, he bought me the book Beekeeping for Dummies for our wedding anniversary, plus a block of comb honey, which was beautifully presented inside an old-fashioned square wooden box, hand-painted a lovely pale green, with the image of a bee in gold leaf embossed on the cover. It’s my jewelry box now.

Back to the Internet I went, looking for ways to get hands-on learning about beekeeping, near home. That’s how I found out about the LIBC. And that’s why I found myself on the Long Island Railroad that sunny Sunday afternoon.

What a great group of people were there that day! I met Walter, a beekeeper from Jamaica, Queens who’s also an exterminator. How ironic! I met Desmond, a beekeeper from Jamaica, West Indies, who has 80 hives on that tropical island. He was visiting his daughter in the USA and found out about the meeting on the Internet.

I learned a lot that day. I found the queen bee. I learned how to tell a worker from a drone. I observed the proper use of the smoker and hive tool. I heard fascinating discussions about helping bees survive cold winters and about how to prevent bee diseases.

I should have left my most of the stuff I lugged to Long Island at home, The bees were so gentle, no one wore any protective gear other than a few folks with veils. No one got stung. Well… except for me.

Near the end of the day, our host beekeeper asked me if I had been stung. Nope! He informed me about a traditional beekeeping initiation. A brand-new beekeeper must get stung!

So, I asked to be stung right above my left elbow. I’ve had a pinched nerve there for a few months. It’s healing, but I figured a little apitherapy would help. I rubbed ice on the spot for a few minutes, to numb it. Then we went to the bee yard. He caught a bee and pressed her onto the spot. Sting! Then, we flicked the stinger and venom sac out of my skin.

Once the effect of the ice wore off, I had a red itchy bump on my elbow. I finally needed to use something in my backpack – the Benadryl cream. No biggie!

But, I did feel sad that the honey who stung me died.

That day, I tasted pollen and mead for the first time. And the meeting host gave me a jar of honey made by his bees to take home. He also gave me some smoker fuel and lent me some beekeeping videos. I borrowed Dadant’s The Hive and the Honey Bee from the LIBC library too.

Then, it was off to the LIRR station, back to Manhattan. I was one happy new beekeeper! It was a fun-filled, learning-filled day.

34,542 Posts
Great story, Madame President. Thanks for sharing.

I officially got my BeeBug in Williamsburg, Virginia from my buddy Lew LeCompte. Lew wanted to put a live beekeeping display in one of the "bee houses" that were already part of the Colonial Williamsburg Museum.

My wife and I had already been bee havers in North Carolina. But no one we knew knew anything about bees, so when they swarmed and then died we didn't know what to do. I don't know why we didn't go back to the guy that we got the bees from in the first place.

Back to Lew and CW. My boss, Roy Underhill, gave me plenty of opportunity to go to the research library to research 18th century beekeeping. The College of William and Mary has some OLD bee books and I did find references to wax and honey and beehives in The Virginia Gazette and in Records of Wills from the 17th and 18th centurys. All quite interesting. We took some liberties on the construction of our hive. We used an example from Diderot's Encyclopedia of 1660 and modified the inside by adding frames. We didn't want to out of compliance with state law. When we installed the bees, transfered them from one of Lew's hives to the New/Old hive, I was stung numerous times around my ankles. By the time I reported to work, at the other end of town, my foot was so swollen that I had to take off my shoe. So, besides the construction that we were doing which was supposed to be the main topic of discussion between the public and us, my ankle and the bees up staged everything else.

Well I had to have bees of my own. So, Barbara and I got two hives from Lew. And then, wanting to live in the country, we went off to Ohio to go to Bee School near Wooster, OH. And then up to the North Country of NY. Where we had started to buy some land while at Wmsbg.

That's pretty much the short version.
You asked.

6,584 Posts
>A brand-new beekeeper must get stung!

Hehe.. First I've heard of it. Must be a New Yawk thang

I managed to get stung a couple of dozen times this, my first year. My *first* sting was somewhat ceremonial, actually.

I was picking up 3 nucs from a local commercial beekeeper, I arranged to meet him in a field in the early evening. It was a beautiful calm and cool evening in June. The nucs were arrayed out in the field, about 200 of them. He lit his smoker but didn't bother with any other gear, so I figured I wouldn't either. We walked over to 3 nucs with rocks on top, ones he'd previously checked out for me. He opened one up to show me. 3 frames of brood and 2 of honey. They were full of bees and heavy. I picked up the first nuc and headed back to the truck about 50 yards away. About then I felt something crawling on my wrist... I remember thinking, well, this is it, no reason panic, might as well get it over with. Sure enough, by the time I'd gotten another 20 feet, I was stung. I carried the nuc the rest of the way to the truck, put it down gently, then rolled up my sleeve to extract the stinger.

Twarn't bad. I told the beekeeper that I'd gotten stung and reminded him that he'd said these were gentle bees. His only comment was that I'd gotten stung gently, hadn't I? He also admitted that he was surprised I hadn't worn a veil and gloves, seeing as how I was a beginner. He said I should wear what I needed to wear to feel comfortable with the bees, that we all need to start somewhere.

I paid him, then we stood around by the trucks, talking beekeeping, chewing grass, and kicking dirt for a while as the sun set. When it was almost dark, we went our respective ways.


1,434 Posts
I wanted to keep bees since I was about 7 or 8 years old. I never could save enough money for a package, but i went to the library and studied as much as I could. I knew of a local beekeeper but we just didn't know him well enough for me to spend any time with him. I still studied beekeeping but soon my few brain cells were devoted to learning enough to get me out of appalachia. fast forward to a few years ago.....

I was off for my daily 2 mile run. I passed a neighbor who was always outside building boxes. He had previously told me as a forest service employee, sometimes he was tasked to build bat houses. As I ran past, I asked, "hey, bud, whatcha building?" he said, "beehives." I stopped my run to chat.

He began to share, "this is a hive body." I have a whole stack of them there. I like to build a bunch at once. I told him how beeing a beekeeper was sort of a lifelong desire, and he said, "well, I'm going to move some hives tonight and sure could use some help."

what an opportunity! I rode with my friend and it was nonstop question and answer. and he had answers! After moving a bunch of hives with him, I was hooked. "I have one extra package of bees coming - would you like it?"

Would I!

269 Posts
That was a great story, have you thought about getting something published? You could you know. Since you read SH and know how she started writing and SMK and know why she told her story, you should start keeping a journal.
There are a ton of "How To" books out there, but few good stories. I will look for your first book.


3,414 Posts
I always bring a bag of hemostats to gatherings
where packages are hived by neophytes. (Hemostats
are small pilers that lock closed, used in
surgery. If you know a surgeon or surgery nurses,
you can get a handful of them.)

I encourage the new beekeepers to find the little
metal tab that holds the queen cage, and suggest
that they clamp the tab with the hemostats, and
pry out the staple that holds the tab in place BEFORE they remove the feed can.

With the tab clamped, the queen cage can be
removed smoothly, and best of all, it CAN'T
slide down into the mass of bees in the package.

I won't bore you with the details, but I tell
those who ask that I learned this trick "the hard way".

Local feral survivors in eight frame medium boxes.
54,120 Posts
>I always bring a bag of hemostats to gatherings
where packages are hived by neophytes.

I have a friend who is an electronics technician who was arrested for having hemostats. The police claimed they were "drug paraphernalia". He had to go to court and show the judge the electronics catalogs that sell them and show them in use before the charges were finally dropped.

3,414 Posts
> arrested for having hemostats

The trick is to keep them in a kit with
hive tools, bee brushes, queen cages
and other obscure beekeeping accessories,
rather than in your pocket, right next
to your (gasp!) lighter.

What you do with your hemostats after the
packages are hived is your business. They
DO make great heat sinks when soldering
leads to delicate circuits.
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