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At first blush (and even after numerous blushes), New York City does not seem like a good place to keep bees and chickens. Hue believed that too, until we met Ruth Harrigan, Fashion Buying and Merchandising ’87.

Harrigan keeps 12 beehives near her home in Douglaston, Queens, and five more in Staten Island. She also has four chickens as pets (more on that in the next post). This summer, she showed Hue said beehives and chickens.

Ruth Harrigan fakes a forest fire.

She approaches the beehives from the back. Apparently, they only leave the hive in one direction, so there are no bees where she’s standing. She fills the bee smoker with pine needles and lights them on fire. A tan stream of smoke pours upward and diffuses, and the bees, sensing a forest fire, crawl back into the hive.

Then she pulls out a frame to show off the honey.

The golden honey is concentrated in the lower left quadrant.

The structure of the man-made hives makes it easier to harvest the honey, but it’s not necessary. Recently, she left some empty cardboard boxes next to the hives, and a feral hive took up residence inside. “For me, catching a swarm is like saving $100,” she says, referring to the cost of buying a new colony.

This beehive was formed in an empty cardboard box.

She’s found a number of uses for the honey. First off, the neighbors eat it to help mitigate their allergies. Prevailing wisdom suggests the pollen content of local raw honey acts as a kind of inoculation for people with a pollen allergy. Supermarket honey can’t do that. “Pasteurized honey has no pollen–it’s just sweet syrup,” she says.

Second, she sells it as HoneyGramz, cute 2-ounce bear-shaped bottles with a gift message. And third, she puts it in her line of skincare, Mee Beauty. Sadly, the intoxicating scent of real honey fades quickly, so the products don’t smell like honey. Buyer beware: any beauty product that smells like honey relies on an artificial scent.

Based on customer demand, though, Harrigan is adding a honey scent to her body wash. “It’s the most natural fake fragrance you can get.”


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