A million bees living on the banks of the East River met a horrible end on Oct. 29 when Hurricane Sandy tore their hives apart.
The insects were part of a honey-making plan by the urban farmers at the Brooklyn Grange, who maintained 25 hives — each containing about 40,000 bees — on Pier K at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
It was the biggest apiary city — but its waterfront location was right in the path of Sandy’s devastating storm surge.
“All our hives that were out on the pier were destroyed,” said Chase Emmons, a managing partner and the chief beekeeper at Brooklyn Grange.
An additional 10 hives located on Brooklyn Grange’s rooftop farm survived — but the loss is catastrophic for the honey producers.
Emmons knew his hives were at risk before the storm struck, but relocating such a huge quantity of stinging insects is no small task.
“There was little we could do without a Herculean effort,” he said.
What’s most heartbreaking for Emmons is the fact that all of the lost hives had been donated last year by a retired Pennsylvania beekeeper who bred extra-hearty bees with stellar genetics.
“The biggest loss is to our selective breeding genetic program. Our plan is to end up with bees that are well suited to the New York environment,” said Emmons. “This puts us back at least a year.”
But Emmons is confident that the Brooklyn Grange’s bee program will be up and running again next summer.
“Live and learn,” said Emmons, who noted that Brooklyn Grange workers will soon assess the equipment and see what they can salvage. “You’ve got to come back stronger.”