While the extensive damage from Hurricane Sandy will take months to assess, news out of Brooklyn is already not looking good for the region’s thriving local food movement, including farms and apiaries.
The Brooklyn Paper reports that a million bees who made their hives atop roofs at Brooklyn Grange in the Brooklyn Navy Yard—the region’s largest beekeeping operation—did not survive the storm. The 25 hives, each home to some 40,000 bees, were destroyed by Sandy’s winds and rainfall.
The hives were donated by a retired Pennsylvania beekeeper, and included certain breeds of bees, “that are well suited to the New York environment,” according to Chase Emmons, chief beekeeper and managing partner at Brooklyn Grange.
Beyond bee products, the Brooklyn Grange is known for its apprenticeship program and queen bee breeding operation that was positioned to help the thriving New York beekeeping community with a supply of locally raised queen bees that can survive well in the city’s harsh conditions.
New York City has become an urban haven for rooftop bee operations including hives atop the famed Waldorf Astoria hotel in midtown. In addition to providing the region with local bee products such as honey and pollen, the local hives help pollinate locally grown food. With the Colony Collapse Disorder epidemic plaguing bees in dense agricultural areas where pesticide use—the perceived culprit for the mysterious mass bee die-off—is significant, many bee colonies are thriving in urban environments where pesticide pollution is not as severe.
Sandy destroyed some of the city’s urban farm operations as well. The Observer reports that East New York Farms’ staff is dealing with wind-beaten long beans crushed by fallen tree branches. Brooklyn’s Red Hook Community Farm was covered by more than two feet of water, destroying virtually all of the farm’s crops and two beehives. Crown Heights’ Bk Farmyards reported moderate damage to collard and kale plants.
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger