Holdin’ Down the Hive: 10 Things to Know about urban beekeeping
By Justine Ma
Angie Bilotti is a local chef and urban beekeeper based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Trained by the Natural Gourmet Institute, Angie is passionate about educating others about food as medicine for the body. She reconnects to ancestral food principles that honor Mother Earth as she takes care of rooftop gardens and creates recipes from nature’s bounty.
When she’s not in her Brooklyn kitchen, she climbs rooftops and takes care of 20,000-60,000 bees! NY Yoga + Life got up close and personal as Angie guided us around the hive and shared her knowledge about Brooklyn Beekeeping
- Location, location, location! Urban beekeepers need to be strategic about their hive placements. When choosing a home for her bees, she has to consider the entire environment — is there enough food for the bees to forage? Should I plant a garden? Is it too noisy? Will I be able to reach them? Do I need to climb a fire escape? No, this is not a drill.
- Shout it from the rooftops! Once beekeepers find a home for their bees, they register their hives to the U.S. Department of Health. Angie is part of the NYC Beekeeping Organization and was trained to inspect hives all over New York. She participates in forums to update her beekeeping practices and checks on her bees every week. Make sure to read up before you start a hive!
- Oh, honeyyy. Did you know that honey is the only food we eat that’s produced by insects? And it never spoils.
- No two honeys are alike. The flavor of honey depends on the food the bees are able to forage. The flowers and trees nearby affect the color and flavor of the honeycomb. No two honeys taste the same and beekeepers prefer to eat it straight from the comb…because they can.
- You’re sweet. Honeybees aren't aggressive, and they aren’t looking to sting you. However, if you’re wearing perfume or any scent, you will attract bees.
- Who runs the world? GIRLS. All worker bees are female. These ladies provide food for the hive, they clean the hive, they do it all. As for the males? Their only role is to mate, and then they are kicked out in the fall before hibernation. Sorry, not sorry boys.
- Queen Bee. The Queen has the ability to choose whether the bee will be male or female based on the need of the hive. Talk about gender selection!
- Air Mail. In NYC, most beekeepers order their bees online and have them delivered to the post office. If you see someone casually walking down the street with a package that’s buzzing, you just met a beekeeper.
- Clear skies. It’s best to avoid visiting a hive on a rainy or cloudy day. The bees are sensitive to nature and can get moody just let we do.
- Reduce, reuse, recycle. After extracting the honey from the comb, beekeepers like Angie enjoy melting and straining the wax cappings into lip balms and medicinal salves. Just remember, taking honey out of its comb is incredibly messy, so leave it to the pros. Look for local raw honey at a farmers market near you!
Connect With Angie
Angie Bilotti is available for private tours of her hives and hosts a variety of classes and workshops. For more information, visit AlchemyQueen.com for more Brooklyn Beekeeping tips and recipes!
Infused Honey Recipe
Infused honey is easy to put together and makes the perfect addition to yogurt, cheese, oatmeal, salad dressings, or marinades. It can also be used as a sweetener in lemonade, tea, or cocktails! Some people use herbal honey for medicinal purposes. For example, sage honey can soothe a sore throat.
Below you’ll find a basic formula to create your very own honey infusion!
1 cup local raw honey
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh herbs or flowers
(Sage, Basil, Rosemary, Thyme, Lemon Balm, Lavender, Chamomile, or Rose Petals)
(Cardamom, Star Anise, Peppercorns, Ginger, Lemon Peel, Orange Peel, or Vanilla Bean)
Bowl of Ice
Mason Jar or Honey Jar
Pour honey, herbs and spices into a double boiler; or a glass bowl that fits over a pot of low simmering water.
Occasionally stir honey for 30-40 minutes; be sure to check on it often so it doesn't overheat and destroy the beneficial enzymes/antibacterial properties. The temperature of the honey shouldn't exceed 115º F.
If the bowl gets too warm, keep an ice bath nearby and rest the below on ice. When the temperature goes back down to 115º F or below, return to double boiler until 30-40 minutes is up.
- Strain honey through cheesecloth and into a mason jar. Let it cool down completely, then cover.
Bonus Tip: After you’re finished with your cheesecloth, tie it up and make a delicious tea by letting it sit in a cup of hot water.
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