Bee-lieve it! Green-Wood Cemetery making its own honey

Bee-lieve it! Green-Wood Cemetery making its own honey
Photo by Caleb Caldwell

This honey is to die for!

Green-Wood Cemetery is selling its own brand of the sticky spread dubbed “the Sweet Hereafter” and made on-site by a few thousand of the graveyard’s six-legged tenants, who, while alive and buzzing, fit right into Brooklyn’s largest necropolis, according to their keeper.

“There’s not that many great places to keep bees in New York City,” said Green-Wood beekeeper Davin Larson. “Not a lot of people have backyards and there’s no farmland, so Greenwood is a nice little oasis for them.”

The sprawling boneyard is home to some 580,000 corpses, but it is also full of life, with thousands of pollen-producing plants, such as cherry trees and rhododendron, nestled between the headstones and crypts.

And that is exactly what the cemetery’s 100,000 bees need to make delicious, syrupy honey, which come in a range of distinct flavors including mint and tangerine due to the burial ground’s diverse flora, staff say.

“There were a lot of complex flavors,” said Green-Wood manager of development John Connolly.

Green-Wood brought the bees into Brooklyn’s final resting place in spring 2015, in an effort to fight the recent rise of so-called colony collapse disorder — an unexplained phenomena in which millions of worker bees are suddenly vanishing from their hives, leaving their queen behind, according to Connolly.

“With colony collapse disorder and the sort of bad management of pest spraying, we felt it’s really vital that we protect our bee populations,” he said.

That said, the money’s in the honey, and the bees will have to pay for themselves if they want to keep their place in paradise, he added.

“We’re trying to see if we can break even on the care of the hives and the jarring and production of honey,” Connolly said. “Altruistic things aside, we can’t lose money on this proposition.”

But, as far as the bees are concerned, room and board in Green-Wood is well worth the cost in honey, according to Larson, who also manages three hives on a Fort Greene rooftop and says his graveyard bees, as compared to their uptown cousins, live the Life of Riley.

“They have more foliage, they’re right next to a lake, they’re beneath a willow tree, so they have shade,” he said. “I’d say they’re doing a lot better at Green-Wood.”

The cemetery will start hawking jars of honey near its 25th Street entrance within the next two to three weeks.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.