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The secret life of Rust Belt beekeepers

April 29, 2014

Now that I have a brood box (base part of a beehive) in my basement, and am avidly looking for a safe spot in the city to install it and move in some bees, I’m especially excited to read about community apiaries in places like Pittsburgh. Chicago is bee-friendly, and I’m hopeful we can get our hive a spot in a community garden soon.


Deep in the defunct industrial zones and backyards of Buffalo, N.Y., there’s a buzz developing — quite literally, in the form of secret beehives. Across the city, a small network of under-the-radar beekeepers has formed. They keep hives in backyards, vacant lots, and even on garage roofs.

“Two years ago, I was just kind of wandering around one of the smaller, cottage neighborhoods that we have here, and I noticed one woman with all this bee art covering her garage,” says Alexandra Farrington, a beekeeper in Buffalo. “I asked her if she kept bees. First she asked if I was a cop, and then she said, ‘Well, if you promise not to tell … yeah, I’ve got a few hives on the roof of my garage.’”

While Buffalo has no laws explicitly banning the practice of beekeeping, many neighbors view the critters as a public nuisance. Keepers worry that enough complaints might add up to local legislation that would…

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