Well it seems like the only bees making the news these days are the bees that go missing (apparently they were in Argentina and not hiking the Application Trail) or banned bees. Unlike several other major cities around the United States such as Chicago and San Francisco, beekeeping is legal. But, in New York City beekeeping is illegal. This isn’t really breaking news (we’ve written about this before) but earlier this week a “Beekeepers Ball” was held in order to bring attention to the issue that some people want to make NYC beekeeping a legit activity. According to the New York Times,
In attendance [on Monday] were New York City beekeepers, aspiring New York City beekeepers, beekeepers not from New York City, friends of beekeepers, friends of bees, people who like to dress as bees, people who like to dress their children as bees, bee-dressed children, one cross-dressing beekeeper, a couple of guys who spend much of their time dressed in armor, fans of honey, fans of local food and a team of French videographers.
Sounds like a good time, but what is really the issue here? According to the New York City Health Code Section 16.01 No person shall sell or give to another person, possess, harbor or keep wild animals including all venomous insects, including, but not limited to, bee, hornet and wasp. Okay, but the same law also states you can’t lawfully keep a hippopotamus in the city (I’m pretty sure one would not fit in my apartment anyway) and if you have a permit to keep live chickens, you have to whitewash the coop once a year. So, as most laws go it sounds like a mix of common sense and antiquated language.
But laws can change, evolve with the times. And we know there are already underground beekeepers in New York City. Some are secretive akin to prohibition-era bootleggers (honey tasting speakeasies anyone?) while others openly sell their illicit wares (I’ve purchased “rooftop honey” at the Union Sqaure Farmer’s market – at a quite a premium). There is even a New York City Beekeepers Association with monthly meetings. Personally I’ve even gone on a date with a guy who was nice enough, but the most exciting part of the evening was when he took me to see his secret bee hive in Manhattan.
So who is is against changing this law? Well, Just Food has sponsored a petition and has been conducting a letter writing campaign aimed at the Department of Health, which amended its laws during the Rudy Giuliani years to outlaw many animals including – ferrets. In January of 2009, Brooklyn Councilman David Yassky sponsored recent legislation to legalize beekeeping. Manhattan Borough president Scott Stringer has also come out in support of making this a legal practice. “Free the bees, create honey, create jobs, protect our environment and let’s create a real buzz on what is going to be the new movement,” said Stringer at a recent press conference.
I guess we will just have to see if all the “buzz” from this recent activity is the what the City Council needs to move on this legislation.