A (forbidden) taste of honey
But beekeeping isn't encouraged in all cities. Get caught with a hive in one of New York City's five boroughs and you could be fined up to $2,000. Rather than protecting residents, Coté says that laws like this might actually be making urban beekeeping more dangerous. By forcing beekeepers underground (so to speak), it keeps them from seeking the training and support they might need to keep hives from going into swarm mode. Swarming happens when a hive begins to exceed its capacity, at which point some of the bees and a new queen break off and relocate en mass to build a new hive—be it on a tree, lamppost or a neighbor's eave. Swarm mode, Coté asserts, is actually more dangerous to beekeeping's image than to civilians. And, he adds, the city's myriad hazards—from dogs to bike messengers—present more of a public safety risk than busy honeybees do.
Last month, New York City Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) introduced legislation to allow beekeeping in the Big Apple. Legalized beekeeping would "stimulate just the kind of niche manufacturing sectors that will be critical to an economic turnaround," he told The Brooklyn Paper. But urban beekeeping isn't exactly something that brings in big bucks, Coté says. "People are doing it to connect to nature," he says, but it takes a lot of time and dedication: "It's like buying a boat."
In preparation for high bee season in the spring and summer, Coté plans to install 18 new hives over the next few weekends on undisclosed Manhattan and Brooklyn rooftops. Coté is the first to admit that the hobby is more likely to drain rather than fill the change jar. But the millions of little workers can green cityscapes and sweeten combs—all for the price of a few square feet of rooftop.