Urban Beekeeping, a review of The Rooftop Beekeeper by Megan Paska

Rooftop_Beekeeper.jpgWhen envisioning a beekeeper, my initial thoughts are of an eccentric bearded man, looking something like a 1970s-era Pete Seeger, sprightly jumping from hive to hive, enjoying life and all it has to offer on his lovely rural farm. In actuality, beekeepers come in all shapes and sizes, as proven by Megan Paska.

Paska is a petite lady who fits the designation many of us would call ‘twee’ or ‘hipster.’ She oversees dozens of bee apiaries (hives) throughout Brooklyn, yes a beekeeper Brooklyn. You may ask, “where are all the flowers, where will they get nectar in the city?” But New York City has over 52,000 acres of back yards -- that’s a lot of flowers! In her book The Rooftop Beekeeper, Megan Paska debunks popular myths about honeybees and gives a thorough and descriptive how-to for any aspiring urban beekeeper.

Paska begins her book by admitting, like many of us, she grew up terrified of bees. Who could blame her? With four wings they can perform near-miraculous aerial maneuvers. They can fly about as fast as a human being can run. Each bee is equipped with a barbed stinger capable of injecting venom into a victim after the stinger itself has been torn from the bee’s body (yikes). Yet, she explains that after working with bees, she’s come to see them as cute, lovable and fascinating creatures, with way more to offer than we give them credit for. For example, did you know that one of every three bites of food we take is the direct result of pollination from creatures like honeybees? Or that California-grown almonds account for 60% of all honeybee pollination in America? Bees have a difficult time seeing light colors. Bees are least likely to sting when they are swarming. Bees cuddle together in hives during the winter. Paska’s book is crammed full of interesting honeybee tidbits such as these. She details step-by-step the process needed to establish a thriving hive of honeybees in a city environment, and even details troubleshooting for just about every scenario your bees could find themselves in. She explains that, barring significant disease, honeybees are some of the most resilient creatures on earth, as long as their queen is kept safe.

For those of us who lack the bravery to construct and maintain a bee apiary of our own (myself included) Paska’s book also includes an incredibly useful section of recipes that use honey, beeswax, etc. I can’t say Paska’s book relieved me of my bee phobia—getting stung between the eyes as a toddler will do that—but I have a far greater appreciation for the honeybee and the people who work with them. I’d strongly recommend this book. Who knows, maybe it will inspire you to become your neighborhood’s next honey-supplier!

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