First there was the black market for raw milk and underaged cheese, followed by the underground sassafras trade. Now, rebellious food-lovers have turned to a different illicit product: homemade honey.
While the actual nectar isn't illegal, beekeeping--at least in NYC--is. Hives are still forbidden here, and anyone found harboring a bee colony could face thousands of dollars in fines if busted (though Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle all support at-home honey production).
Still, an increasing number of urbanites are taking up the hobby. Like gardening and composting, DIY beekeeping is an easy (well, relatively) way to reconnect with nature; it also offers the opportunity to protect a threatened species and get something sweet out of the deal.
Obviously, we're not advocating illegal activity, but as the urban beekeeping movement grows and tolerance increases, many expect the city will lift the ban.
As it stands, there are dozens of resources available for would-be beekeepers, from classes to networks to books and websites providing tips and advice. Here, a primer on where and how to get started, should the mood strike--or sting--you.
• NYC Beekeepers Association: This group organizes meet-ups, hosts introductory classes and moderates a superinformative message board.
• Rossman Apiaries: This source offers all-in-one kits and door-to-door shipment on queen bees.
• The Barefoot Beekeeper: A site packed with everything you want or need to know about small-scale honey production.
• Bee Culture: This monthly magazine is for beginners and professionals alike--it's pretty much the digest for American beekeepers.
• The Beekeeper's Handbook: An in-depth guide to backyard beekeeping, plus honey-heavy recipes ($21; amazon.com).