NYC Denizens—The Time to Help Legalize Beekeeping is Upon Us!

Folks, there are only a few days left to do your part to get beekeeping legalized in NYC! On or before 5 p.m. on Wed. Feb. 3rd, please take a moment to send your message in support of modifying the NYC health code to allow beekeeping by emailing your message to: RESOLUTIONCOMMENTS (at) health.nyc.gov

You can learn more here. And, to spark your creative juices (if, indeed, juices can be sparked), here's the letter I emailed to the NYC Health Department just moments ago:

It is my pleasure to submit these comments in strong support of legalizing beekeeping in New York City. As a lifelong resident of this city, I know how important it is to improve the ecological balance here and to support a level of biodiversity that benefits human, plant, and animal alike.

As a weekend beekeeper and gardener in upstate New York, I have come to love the company of honeybees. Their extraordinary role as key pollinators has increased my garden’s yield exponentially. The pleasure of observing them at work is unparalleled. The hum of their labor is a joy to the ear. I seek these aesthetic pleasures in the city too, and rejoice when, come springtime, I am lucky enough to see a honeybee working the blossoms of a crocus in a neighbor’s garden. I only wish such sights and sounds were not so rare.

My neighbors in Brooklyn—many of them old-timers who have been here for many decades—lament the disappearance of honeybees in their gardens—a presence they enjoyed and benefited from. They seem fascinated when they find out I am a beekeeper—they want to know more about the bees; they want to tell their own bee-related stories; they are concerned about the threats bees face.

I mention all this because I think it’s become almost second nature to underestimate the toll on urban residents when, bit by bit, traces of the natural world are eradicated, threatened, or diminished. I think we lose our sense of history and place, and humanizing opportunities to revel and participate in the fascinating world of nature—which is, of course, our world (even in the city).

By legalizing beekeeping, we can increase public education about the importance of bees and the natural world so often overlooked in our busy urban lives. We can more openly educate urban beekeepers on safe, neighbor-friendly beekeeping practices. Our local gardens will certainly benefit. Our connection with self-sufficiency and awareness of where our food comes from will increase. The rich aesthetic pleasures associated with the sights and sounds of bees and their hives will become more available to those who desire them. And we’ll all be able to increase our access to local, New York City honey produced by the sophisticated, urbane bees who call New York City home.

Thank you for considering these perspectives.


Gerry Gomez Pearlberg

Those, gentle reader, are my two cents—now go ahead and add your two cents to the discussion if you're a New Yorker with an interest in this issue. We really need to make this happen! You can learn more about this effort and the hearing next week by visiting our friends over at Just Food, who are working so hard on this venture.

Pondering the Universe and Our Place In It

Pour yourself a nice cup of tea (or whatever) and enjoy this tour of the cosmos from the American Museum of Natural History.


A Mac in His Backpack

From the Department of Unexpected Delights (and on this day of much anticipated Apple-related revelations), here's an amazing New York Times article, complete with an amazing poem by the Very Great Gary Snyder about his Mac entitled "Why I Take Good Care of My Macintosh."


Yin & Yang

Two studies of "snowbound" bees found outside the bee tree down the road.

See also: A Honeybee in Snow.


Breaking All the Rules

I (illicitly) snapped this descriptive plaque at the Henry Darger show at the American Folk Art Museum a couple of weeks ago. I risked death-by-museum-guard to get this for you, my blogged beloveds. My sneaky snapping resulted in a less than excellent framing.If you're in NYC and want to check out the small but fun show of Darger's work, I do recommend it. There's not much in the way of bee-related stuff, beyond this placard, but the museum is a blast, and can be enjoyed from top to bottom in an hour or so. Don't miss the great weather vanes, duck decoys, and fish decoys while you're there. The museum's anti-photo rules suck, but the place is a treasure trove.


Anthills Chillin'

We have some impressive ant hills in the old pasture behind our property. During a recent snow-shoe excursion to follow the meandering coyote tracks wherever they might lead, I came upon a few of my favorite anthills in all their snowbound glory.
Are the ants living below this blanket of snow sleeping in these days, or (as is more likely) are they, like the bees in slowdown mode within their hives, doing small errands and working their way, bit by bit, through their winter food supply?It's fun to imagine thousands of ants safely hidden away inside these protective mounds, deep below the cold white surface, loafing a bit in this, the "off-season." For verily, if anyone deserves a chance to chill, it's the hard-working ants.


Thought for the Day

Seen at a local farmstand.

A Honeybee in Snow

Yesterday, on my afternoon walk around the pond, I found this sweet girl in the snow. Perhaps the warm day lured her too far from the hive and when the weather chilled, she couldn't make it back. Or perhaps she felt her end was near and ventured from her sister bees into the white abyss with a sense of final purpose. Whatever the story, I hope her end was quick. She was a lovely creature.


"Vanishing of the Bees" Fundraiser in NYC on 2/4/10

If you're planning to be in NYC on February 4th, consider lending your support to this fundraising event for "Vanishing of the Bees," a documentary that explores the potential causes of Colony Collapse Disorder.

Tickets are only $20 and the directors of the film will be on hand to show selected clips and discuss their work on this timely project. Space for this event is limited, so RSVPs are required by January 28th. I'm ordering my tickets just as soon as I upload this post.

Learn more about the "Vanishing of the Bees" project here.


Brooklyn Bees

Last August, some locust blossoms fell on the hood of a car here in Brooklyn. The intrepid Brooklyn bees didn't let that stop them. Here are some pictures I took (and then tweaked, just for the hell of it) on my iPhone.


January 17, 2010

The morning walk uphill in deep, new snow:
On which dead honeybees are scattered like sunflower hulls—

Upon this field of white that radiates absence &
presence, dead bees form the patterned language

that tells us: Deep inside the January hive,
the colony is still alive.

—Gerry Gomez Pearlberg

Flower Powder: The Art of Wolfgang Laib

First off, many thanks to Peter, who, in response to my recent post on bees in art, mentioned the work of bee-related art of Wolfgang Laib.

I'd never heard of Laib before, but today I spent some time learning more about this artist, who works in various materials, from milk and rocks, to beeswax and pollen he gathers himself (painstaking work! ask any honeybee!) in the meadows of rural Germany, where he resides.

Laib studied to be a doctor and jumped ship for art. Now he goes around collecting flower powder in fields and rearranging it on the floors of urban galleries. His beeswax sculptures make me immediately want to go and formulate earthy, totemic sculptures from the extra wax I have lying around in the shed. I like it when art makes me want to go out and make my own art!

Here are some data-nuggets I dug up on Laib, just for you.

And while you're at it, take a gander at this video walk-through of a recent gallery show of Laib's work, including his strangely moving and meditative pollen art.


The Lowdown on Landings

If you've kept bees for any length of time, you've probably spent many hours watching your bees touchdown on the landing boards of their hives before scrambling inside to deliver their gleanings. Sometimes, the landings are smooth and elegant, other times (especially when the bees are laden with pollen), the landing is...well...kind of bumbling.The fine art of returning safely to terra firma (if you're a bee) is the topic of an interesting research item summarized in a recent Science Daily article entitled, Final Moment of Bee Landing Tactics Revealed.

How often, amidst the busy days of beekeeping and its attendant chores, do you remember to simply sit by the hive and enjoy watching the bees come and go? One of my New Year's resolutions is to do much more of this in 2010.


Bees in Art

Here's to more art and less television in 2010!For your viewing pleasure, here are five bees-in-art sites to get you started...

1. Bees in Art- Operated by the Land Gallery & Foundation ("Home of leading British wildlife art"), this site offers plenty of images, books, cards, and other bee-related items to keep you buzzing around awhile.

2. Bee Dreams/Unique Bee Photography- Photographer Rick Lieder's luminous honeybee portraits celebrate the elegance, dignity, and lithe energy of our airborne friends.

3. The Bee Photographer- Eric Tourneret has traveled the world to photograph honeybees, beekeepers, and their environs. His astonishing photos from Cameroon, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, and Romania will—I guarantee it—blow your mind.

4. Adrianne Rubenstein- We interviewed this wonderful artist awhile back, and I encourage you to explore her fascinating bee-inspired images. Check out Adrianne's interview with Global Swarming Honeybees here.

5. BEE's Project - A perusal of MoMA's website has yielded a few meditative bee-related images by Portuguese artist/designer Susana Soares, accompanied by a thought-provoking audio commentary by another artist working with similar themes—namely, the interactions between animal/human senses, health care, technology, and the need to develop more indigenous/human-friendly settings for the delivery of medical services. (Anyone who has spent any time in a hospital of late will know exactly whereof this speaker speaks, and will no doubt agree with her assessment that these alienating, aesthetically empty environments cannot possible aid in the promotion of well-being.)

I am always on the lookout for quality websites and resources related to bee-inspired photography and other visual arts. What's your favorite resource along these lines?


Bee-getting Justice

The Natural Resources Defense Council, together with the Xerces Society, achieved a big victory for our bee friends at the end of 2009, and now that I'm back at the bloggin' desk, I wanted to make sure all of you know this bit of positive news.

We're all aware that bees and other pollinators are under severe pressure from the innumerable, often under-tested pesticides that saturate our environment. One pesticide in particular—spirotetramat (manufactured by Bayer CropScience under the trade names Movento and Ultor)—has been found to harm bees, yet was OK'd by the EPA for nationwide use last year.

The NRDC-Xerces lawsuit has righted that wrong. In late December, a federal court in New York ordered the EPA to reevaluate the chemical in compliance with the law, making future sales of this substance illegal in the U.S. Learn more here.

I'm glad that organizations like the NRDC and the Xerces Society are out there fighting the good fight.



I may be 11 days late in extending the "Happy New Year" greeting, but the sentiment is no less sincere for its delay. Just back from a trip to the Yucatan, where Wren and I met some lovely beekeepers, tasted some yummy honey, paid homage to the bee-god at the Tulum ruins, and sat on the beach doing nada.

Here's to good things as we open the page on 2010—for all of us: human, animal, vegetable, mineral, earthward, skyward, and especially beeward.