Ever since the ban on beekeeping was lifted in New York City in March 2010, the area has emerged as the one of buzziest acts of urban agriculture to hit the five boroughs since hydroponic window farming and Brooklyn chickening.
Last week, a 58-year-old Queens resident named Yi Ge Chen came under fire for taking the latest “urban agricultural must-have” to an entirely new — and terrifying — level. Citing public health concerns, authorities descended on the backyard and driveway of Chen's modest Corona home and confiscated 45 unregistered hives containing an estimated 3 million diseased bees. To put the number into perspective, that’s more bees than the number of people living in Queens.
As you may have surmised, Chen isn’t your average Mast Brothers chocolate bar-chomping, Williams-Sonoma-shopping urban apiarist with hoarder tendencies. Chen was a seasoned beekeeper in his native China. After his move to the States, he picked up the habit again in a big way just two years ago. “That’s all I want to do,” a devastated Chen told the Daily News after the extensive raid. Chen also admitted that “It's gotten out of hand. I don’t have the time or resources to do this."
Apparently so. “They’re a health hazard,” explained Anthony "Tony Bees" Planakis, the NYPD’s top beekeeping detective (yes, that appears to be his actual job title, and he's had a very busy summer). “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
Even Andrew Cote, president of the New York City Beekeepers Association was taken aback by the honey-drenched scene. He tells the Daily News: “All rules of good urban beekeeping and of common sense have been ignored here. I thought I’ve seen it all in urban beekeeping and this surprised me.” He added to the NY Post: “There was literally no way for the neighbors to get out of their homes without facing a swarm of bees.”
The hives have since been transferred to an “undisclosed location” (probably not the Waldorf-Astoria) and Chen could face fines of up to $2,000 per hive. NYC beekeepers don’t need a license but are required to register each hive with the Health Department. And it get's weirder: In addition to stashing several more hives behind his sushi restaurant in nearby Astoria, Chen is also accused of selling 1,200 pounds of honey diluted with corn syrup to a local bakery to the tune of $6,000.
So who, you may wonder, tipped off the authorities to Chen's extreme beekeeping activities? A terrified neighbor? A concerned family member? Nope, it was a mortified real estate agent working with Chen to sell his home.
With that, an essential real estate tip: When attempting to sell your house, you should probably do something about the 3 million "pet" bees living in your backyard and driveway.
Related bee stories on MNN:
The opinions expressed by MNN Bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of MNN.com. While we have reviewed their content to make sure it complies with our Terms and Conditions, MNN is not responsible for the accuracy of any of their information.