Volume 74, Number 29 | November 24 - 30, 2004

Villager photos by Jake Price

David Graves collects honey on the rooftop of a hotel near Union Sq.

Rooftop hives keep him busy as an urban beekeeper

Scattered on the rooftops of Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn are David Graves’ bees. In total he has 15 hives. One might think that Graves would have trouble finding space. Who would want a hive of bees on their roof? Apparently many people, since over half of his hives are on roofs by invitation. More than just the honey, Graves enjoys sharing what he knows with New Yorkers curious to learn about hidden nature in the city. For his rent for use of the roofs, he pays in maple syrup, jellies and jams that he makes on his farm in Massachusetts — and if there’s a large enough yield, in honey.

Graves and his wife, Mary, run a small family-owned company called Berkshire Berries, which he started in 1978 on their front lawn in Becket, Mass. He sells his products three days a week at the Greenmarket in Union Sq. All of Graves’ ingredients come from the Northeast — many from his own backyard — and so are distinct to the region. According to Graves, the honey collected by New York City bees is also distinctive, varying in flavor from borough to borough and even neighborhood to neighborhood.

Jake Price

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