Brooklyn’s Green Wood Cemetery serves as the resting place for at least 560,000 people including composer Leonard Bernstein, editor Horace Greeley, actor Frank Morgan, and the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, who was known to be a good friend to Andy Warhol. In addition to the thousands of dearly departed who now call Green Wood Cemetery their final resting place, at least 600,000 honeybees have made this cemetery their home.
As with most urban areas, there isn’t a lot of land for backyard beekeepers to take advantage of in New York City. That’s why Green Wood was the perfect spot for the beekeeping operation known as “The Sweet Hereafter,” where the honey is made on site thanks to the cemetery’s new, buzzing residents. Davin Larson, a Brooklyn beekeeper, was listening to classical music at Green Wood’s chapel while considering a place for his hives. “I was sitting there when I thought, ‘This has to be a perfect place to keep bees in the city.’” Green Wood is one of the largest green areas in Brooklyn—the 478-acre land is surrounded by ponds, flowering plants, and trees and is an ideal location for a beekeeper. The land has the same advantages as a rural area.
Larson, who worked with bees as a kid, spoke with the cemetery volunteer, Nicole Francis. Francis, another beekeeper, spoke with the cemetery’s public programming director and made the new honeybee location official. Tucked away along the pathways are boxes of hives that house at least 40,000 honeybees a piece. The bees serve as essential pollinators, and the staff are hoping they continue to cross pollinate in the cemetery as well. John Connolly, Green Wood’s general manager of public engagement and involvement, stated, “the bees help pollinate the cemetery’s tons of flowering plants and trees.”
Larson manages six of the 15 hives at Green Wood. The honeybees are fed sugar water to encourage the construction of honeycombs. Between April and June, they are expected to produce a fair amount of honey. Larson claims they bought at least 400 lbs. of sugar for the year—over the winter, bees are fed an extra sweet formula to ensure they have enough food over the season. The Green Wood beekeepers have harvested around 200 lbs. of honey this year.
“The Sweet Hereafter” honey can be bought at the entrance of the cemetery at the main gate. There were concerns that people with relatives and loved ones buried at Green Wood would object to this use of the cemetery, but so far everyone’s been supportive of the project.
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