ABOVE THE ROOF TOPS


Not all of Mr. Weatherbees' friends live and work in the country. Some of them live and work from the roof tops in the heart of New York City gathering honey from parks, gardens and cemeteries..

I remember a very long time ago when I was driving through the Town of Orangeville, seeing about twelve beehives on the top of a garage that was attached to a house. It was a bright sunny day and as I reversed my car back down the street for a better look there were thousands of bees coming and going about their business.

Contrary to what you may think,this is not, an uncommon location to keep bees. Take for example David Graves who lives in the City of New York, a beekeeper, who keeps thousands of bees on the rooftops in the city.

The following is an excerpt from Philadelphia Inquirer

NEW YORK--Bears are nonexistent. Skunks are rare. Rats, pigeons and humans, though plentiful, are reluctant to approach. New York City, it turns out, is a great place to keep bees.

David Graves, has hundreds of thousands of honeybees in seven hives in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhatten. "There are so many parks and gardens and rooftop flowerpots. Even if it's dry, they can get the water they need from the East River" said David. They go around and mind their own beeswax, too, and don't go around stinging sidewalk bound New Yorkers, Graves insists. The hives are on rooftops, as high as twelve stories. to keep them undisturbed.

Each of Graves' hives can produce 50 pounds of honey a year, which he sells for $5. a half pound at the City's produce markets. His ordinary New England honey is $3.

Graves, 48, has been raising bees for fifteen years. He got the up-on-the-roof idea one spring after bears raided his hives near his Becket, Mass. home.

The next step was convincing and cajoling the landlord to allow the hives on their rooftops. According to Graves this wasn't a big problem. He would take a package of bees to the market in the spring and place a sign on them that would read " We need a good home. We are very gentle. We would like to share our New York City honey. Do you have a roof top?"

He got twice as many offers as he needed and therefore hopes to expand this year.

Graves describing moving a hive when one building needed repair on its roof: " I just put it in the elevator and brought it down, maybe 25,000 live bees on an elevator, 12 stories down. The landlord was brought up on a farm. He knows they're not dangerous. "Nobody else got into the elevator, he says.

The New York honey has its own flavour., Graves said, but not because of any gritty big city aftertaste. "Its because of the different flowers and different source of nectar," he says. "Its very flowery, definitley a different taste from the honey that comes from the Berkshires.

Graves' enthusiasm for bees goes beyond their honey; he's a bit of a defense attorney for the insects themselves. "The hardest thing is to get people to understand honeybees and not be afraid of them," Graves says,"They're not yellow jackets. not hornets and not so aggressive. You won't find honeybees on the peach you're eating or the Coke in your hand."

Next spring he will get a chance to share his enthusiasm. He recently set up two hives on the top of a high school in the Bronx and hopes"to show the kids how it's done, extract some honey and show how the bees work." "It's farming that can be done right here in the city." Perhaps there is an opportunity to do the same here in Dufferin, say on top of the Toronto Dominion Bank in Shelburne or on top of the County Court house in Orangeville. Perhaps Mr. Crewson, the Shelburne Mayor would allow a hive of bees to locate on the roof of the Townhall!!

A similar beekeeping operation is also carried out on the roof of the Paris opera House in France. The bees collect the nectar from nearby parisian gardens and the beekeeper sells the honey at premium prices. I think Mr. Weatherbee and friends may have to get used to heights!


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