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Tricks of the Bee Trade Being Taught at Inner City Rooftop Farm

By Serena Solomon | March 20, 2012 12:44pm
Tim O’Neal, in the straw hat, tends to hives at the Added Value Farm in Red Hook.
Tim O’Neal, in the straw hat, tends to hives at the Added Value Farm in Red Hook.
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Borough Bees/Tim O'Neal

MANHATTAN — Budding urban beekeepers will be taught the tricks of the honey trade with apprenticeships offered at an inner-city farm.

The Big Apple Apiary, a project of Brooklyn Grange Farm, is offering 12 beekeeping traineeships that will run from spring into fall.

The chosen dozen, who will come from across the city, will help tend 20 to 30 hives the farm plans to install in a new two-acre rooftop farm at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  

"We are giving them the experience to become beekeepers in their own right," said Tim O’Neal, 27, who created the program along with fellow beekeeper Chase Emmons. 

O'Neal said the application process, which closes on Wednesday, March 21, is open to people of any age or profession. Preference will be given to those who intend to stay on as mentors the following year. 

"We hope to open it up to low-income members, school groups," O'Neal said of programs he plans to establish in the future.

Brooklyn Grange Farm, which has its flagship farm in Long Island City, has largely funded the project that will lend apprentices the required gear, including veils and smokers to calm agitated bees. 

The apprenticeships are scheduled to start the first weekend in April to welcome the arrival of the bees. O'Neal expects participants to spend three to four hours of their weekends managing the hives, including learning techniques to prevent the insects from swarming

O’Neal is also developing a breeding program for queen bees. 

"The problem is most bees in the city were imports from the American deep south," said O'Neal.

"Because they came from a much warmer climate they have a genetic profile that isn't particularly suited to our local climate."

By raising offspring from colonies that successfully survive the New York winter, O'Neal is aiming for "healthy and locally adapted queens."

Those interested in applying for the apprentice program must send an email to bigappleapiary@gmail.com no later than March 21.