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Sweet Life: Bees Rescued from Little Italy Swarm Thriving in New Home

By Patrick Hedlund | June 6, 2011 7:23am | Updated on June 6, 2011 8:07am

By Patrick Hedlund

DNAinfo News Editor

MANHATTAN — A massive swarm of bees that created a buzz last week after descending on a Little Italy street corner is thriving at a new hive following their rescue by a local beekeeper.

The Little Italy bees — which massed in the thousands last Tuesday on the side of a mailbox at the corner of Grand and Mulberry streets — were corralled by Queens-based beekeeper Elie Miodownik.

The swarm forced police to cordon off the corner for hours as curious onlookers stopped to take photos and gawk at the urban oddity.

After partnering with an NYPD beekeeper to identify and remove the queen bee, whose workers followed her to the mailbox because of overcrowding at a nearby hive, Miodownik took about 7,000 of the insects to form a new hive at his home in Kew Gardens Hills.

"It's been two days and they've stayed put, so hopefully they're happy," said the 25-year-old, who works as a veterinary assistant and has been keeping hives in his backyard for the past couple years.

"They look like they're working, and they've drawn out a [honey]comb."

Since the NYPD beekeeper kept the queen from Tuesday's job, Miodownik worried that his haul might not take to their new surroundings and simply swarm again somewhere else.

But the bees have been enjoying their outer-borough lifestyle so far, and Miodownik is currently wondering if he should introduce a new queen to the colony or wait to see if they produce their own.

"A good sign is that they haven't left," he noted. "A lot of times you get a swarm and you put them in a box, and they abscond. They don't like it."

In the meantime, he placed eggs from another colony into the new hive to give the bees a reason to stay, and made another haul last Thursday after responding to a smaller swarm in Washington Heights.

He gathered about 6,000 or so bees uptown after discovering the swarm on a fire escape on 164th Street near St. Nicholas Avenue.

"It could make one gigantic colony," Miodownik said, noting that he ultimately decided to keep the two groups separate and not merge the two swarms.

Miodownik's bees, which make up multiple hives in his backyard, have produced more than 100 pounds of honey since he started hosting them. He got interested in beekeeping after reading about the practice online, but admitted his neighbors weren't too thrilled to find out his new hobby.

"My neighbor's terrified. He doesn't say it, but he's terrified," said Miodownik, who is planning to relocate his hives upstate when he heads to Cornell University this fall to study to be a veterinarian.

"He'll be very pleased that I'm moving."