It's the buzz on New York rooftops

A Mid Manhattan's water towers, high above the honking horns and car alarms and sirens, tens of thousands of diligent bees are busy reducing the metropolis to a sweet, fine essence: honey.

An apiary publicity stunt? Not at all. Massachusetts-based bee- keeper David Graves insists that his rooftop endeavor is purely practical: In the rural Berkshires, where Graves lives, bears tend to smash beehives to bits; that's why he started moving them to the tops of local buildings. Then one day, while selling his family's Berkshire Berries jams and jellies (and honey) at a Manhattan farmers' market, it occurred to him that the city's rooftops would make an even more bearsafe expanse for beekeeping.

To find New Yorkers willing to lend their roofs, Graves displayed crates of bees next to his stands at the city's farmers' markets, including the one at Union Square. He attracted swarms of curious passersby, and a few takers. In 1998 he launched New York City Rooftop Beelicious Berkshire Berries Honey, and today has 13 hives in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx.

So how does New York honey taste? Sooty? Fortunately, no: The bees sip from deep inside the blossom, beyond any grime, feeding on linden and locust trees, cover, and a range of flowers. The honey varies in character seasonally and from hive to hive. Last fall, Grave's Upper West Side honey was intensely sweet, and electric amber in hue. His Brooklyn blend was as dark and as thick as treacle. By spring, both were clear gold, with a mild, clean flavor. Graves takes pride in his truly local honey, noting that some say it helps build immunity to indigenous pollen.

His metropolitan bees seem remarkably happy, he says: "I don't see tattered wings here, like I do in the Berkshires." If that's the case, they might be that rarest of creatures--angst-free New Yorkers.-- Wendy Kagan


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