By Mary Plummer
Megan Paska so missed the outdoors when she moved to Greenpoint that she turned to a life of crime: beekeeping.
Paska is one of hundreds of beekeepers around the city who’ve been keeping bees illegally. Wednesday about a dozen beekeepers came before a Department of Health panel to try to change that. They spoke in support of a proposed change in the city’s health code that would remove bees from a list of prohibited animals, like lions and crocodiles.
“I think it’s about time the law changes,” Paska said. “People need to have access to things like this.”
No one opposed the change, and beekeepers are hopeful that bees will be legalized when the Board of Health meets in March. Just about the time when bees will begin venturing out of their now dormant hives to greet spring.
Beekeepers have been building support to legalize beekeeping for the past few years, hoping that New York City will join other bee-friendly cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle.
At the hearing, beekeepers all spoke with passionate devotion to the hobby – one man received thunderous applause when he described beekeeping as a “spiritual quest,” a “Zen experience,” a “catalyst for community building.”
Brooklyn resident Gerry Gomez Pearlberg, who keeps her bees in the Catskills, says she’s fascinated by studying bees and watching how they help one another.
“I don’t keep bees to provide honey,” she said. In fact she has about 700 jars of honey in her home – she says when you start keeping bees people start giving you honey.
“I always delight in watching them work,” she said. “They’re these tiny little bugs and in the other hand they’re living in this hierarchical structure.”
Beekeepers seem to agree that there’s a larger lesson to be learned from the bees.
“You take one bee and you look at it and it’s just this tiny, simple thing,” Paska explained. “From the moment it hatches out of its shell it knows what to do.”
Paska says that the best summer nights are when she climbs the ladder to her roof after work, sits down with a beer and watches the sunset as her bees return to the hive.
“You can’t be a beekeeper and be in a rush,” she said. “You just to take your time and focus. You really just have to look and observe.”