When I got to Loren’s apartment and she asked me if I wanted to see her open up the hive, I realized for the first time, “Holy shit, I’m about to come face to face with a bunch of fucking bees.”
After it was all over, Loren’s boyfriend Paul told me I had been very brave, even though I hadn’t. Also, I seem to remember that Paul was right by my side running away from bees every step of the way.
Thus was my introduction to rooftop beekeeping in Brooklyn.
If you want some of her Hunter’s Honey, you’ll have to get on her Christmas list.
Loren told me she’d been stung plenty of times in the course of her urban beekeeping, and horrifyingly, she said that after you’re stung once, you are marked with a pheromone trace that alerts the rest of the hive to come finish you off. I asked Loren if being marked for death by the hive was finally the point at which she starts running and screaming like a frightened infant/me. No, she just sprays the sting with a little smoke (which makes Loren the bravest person I know).
But there are tons of other terrifying tribulations the urban keeper must face that even the brave Loren hadn’t anticipated when she started out. Like if you don’t monitor the bees closer than little junkies just out of rehab, they will go ahead and create a new queen who will set up a new hive right in your stairwell skylight. This very thing happened to Loren last summer and she had to call a guy named Mickey the bee vacuum guy in Fort Green to have him bring his bee vacuum over and suck up all the bees.
How did Loren learn how to do all this? Apart from the bee vacuum guy who she found via google, she learned it all at NYC Beekeeping. Urban beekeeping is split right down the middle between retired hobbyists and CSA punks from Bushwick. The thing that unites everyone at NYC Beekeeping is, obviously, bee puns: “Welcome to the Newbees,” “What’s the Buzz” just off the top of Loren’s head. Two years ago there were 40 members affiliated, now Loren puts the number closer to 800 (urban beekeeping was recently legalized).
Here is the urban ecology I imagined after talking to Loren: Someone spills their rooibus tee on the street, a passing pug laps it up, the pug pees on a linden tree, Loren’s bees pollinate the tree, the bees take the nectar back to Loren’s roof, Loren sells the resulting honey at Marlow and Daughters, you buy the honey and put it in your rooibus tee. And so the cycle begins again. Except Loren might stop selling her honey at Marlow this year. Which means if you want some of her Hunter’s Honey, you’ll have to get on her Christmas list.