“If you grew up suburban, barefoot, and curious, your first memory of pain is probably a bee sting,” muses William Bostwick at Gilt Taste. “One wrong step, and clover-specked lawns suddenly feel like minefields. As humans, though, our first experience of sweetness—high-grade, system-shocking, what is this stuff sweetness—was probably honey.”
By relating a pair of nearly universal childhood experiences, Bostwick was trying to explain his innate pull to harvest honey himself, to keep a hive of 5,000 stinging insects in his backyard. To many (like Bostwick’s very concerned neighbors), a few pints of local honey doesn’t make up for the labor, investment, or danger of bee stings that a home hive entails. But to him, the cultivation and enjoyment of locally-sourced honey is an art unto itself.
“More than anything I can think of,” writes Bostwick, “it captures a season, a place—what’s blooming when, and where. Smoky mesquite honey from New Mexico; velvety tan oak from Sonoma County; sparkling, light-as-spring-dew clover from Vermont; molasses-dark avocado from the Central Valley. One day, Dan and I looked around our own neighborhood: sage, eucalyptus, jasmine, fennel. We wanted to taste home.”
Outside of artistry, keeping a hive helps others connect to a more natural way of living—even in the middle of the city. “The Beekeeper,” a mini-documentary by the DIY videography collective Made by Hand, profiles another passionate rooftop beekeeper, Brooklyn’s Megan Paska. “Being a beekeeper has given me a real sense of purpose,” Paska says in the video. “It’s like, that’s my religion. That’s what keeps me sane. That’s what keeps me connected to the world.” Watch the video below:
Although neither the essay nor the video offer much new information about urban beekeeping, they both provide a precious, elegant glimpse into the rewarding hobby.