Rooftop Apiculture: Honey Production in New York City


On World Bee Day 2021, we want to highlight the work of The New York Bee Sanctuary. We spoke with Founder Angell Deer on carrying out sustainable practices for pollinators in one of the world’s megacities.  

Special Report by Cristina Ramirez Doval

In 2015, Angell Deer started The New York Bee Sanctuary in order to teach others about the many uses of products derived from the honeybee, one of over 3,000 species of bees that can be found in the United States.

Aside from their role in fabricating honey as their name clearly depicts, they also pollinate plants that are a source of food and shelter for other animal species; wild plants flourish from their pollination, and pollinated plants become the crops humans harvest consequently.

Beginning operations in Brooklyn, the organization focuses on raising awareness of the importance of honeybees and how they benefit humans; how to start beekeeping and what are some sustainable practices that will preserve the bees’ habitats throughout this megacity.

The nonprofit is also involved with the state’s government and with the policies that are being created or changed in order to preserve the environment. 

Any environmental bill being discussed in the New York State Assembly is usually published in the Bee Sanctuary website to help raise awareness. 

As executive director, Deer also urges citizens and institutions to pledge they will carry out sustainable practices that will make the environment safe for pollinators.

Deer mentioned that the products derived from bees in general have many uses like: wax for candles, medicinal uses, balms, and cosmetics. 

In fact, he said that – contrary to popular belief-, it is not a practice that is dying out, instead, it is growing and becoming more popular. 

“There are over 300 bee sanctuaries in the U.S.,” Deer explained. 

The environmentalist felt compelled to start a new one in the City because of the amount of people that he would be able to reach. 

A lot of private citizens have begun beekeeping in their rooftops, and different public and private institutions have become partners of Bee Sanctuary as bee advocates. 

Other entities, such as schools and colleges have pledged to have their student body turn to environmentally safe practices so that they may reverse the destruction of the bees’ habitats.

“Beekeeping has helped people get closer to nature; usually in a city you buy produce at a supermarket, and that drives you away from practices that are more in tune with nature,” Deer observed.

Partnerships have helped Bee Sanctuary spread the message in New York. This nonprofit has joined different cosmetic companies and organic stores. By teaming up with the latter, a product derived by honeybees called propolis became extremely popular, especially during the Pandemic. Propolis is a substance collected by honeybees from tree buds; they use it to fill crevices and to seal and varnish honeycombs. 

Due to its antiviral properties and the fact that bacteria have not become resistant to it, propolis started selling around the city at a fast pace. 

“This is something that has been around for millions of years, yet in the Western world, we didn’t have it because we didn’t know about it,” he explained.

Many environmentalists and bees’ advocates such as Deer emphasize the importance of World Bee Day as human activity has destroyed most of their habitat and there is a dire need to reverse those effects so that we may prevent their extinction.

To learn more about The New York Bee Sanctuary please visit: http://www.newyorkbeesanctuary.org/

Article Photos Provided By: Angell Deer, The New York Bee Sanctuary

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