Wilk Apiary was started in 2012 to help save the honeybee in our urban Queens, NY environment. We are beekeepers first. We then also sell honey and other related hive products to help fund this mission. We have not asked for public or private funding to start a business. We prefer to do it the old fashioned way with hard work and personal expense.
When did you become interested in beekeeping?
I’ve always liked checking out the Apiary at the Queens Farm. One day while visited a maple farm in Putnam County I asked the owner about beekeeping as he also has an apiary. He told me to buy a book from the gift shop. I purchased Backyard Beekeeping and got the “bug” from there.
Did you learn the art of beekeeping from someone?
A friend and I took the beekeeping course offered by The New York City Beekeepers Association and learned about beekeeping from Andrew and Norm Cote.
What kind of hives do you use and why?
I use Langstroth Hives because they are the ones I learned on and I haven’t seen any other style that interests me to enough to try.
Tell us your favorite swarm story!
I visited a well-known beekeeping friend one afternoon. When I get there he asked if I had my camera. I asked why, and he said that hive over there is about to swarm. I grabbed my camera and for the next 10 minutes or so we both just stood there without suits or veils in the middle of thousands of honeybees flying everywhere. Then they started to form the swarm cluster you always see on a tree about 100 feet away. It was incredible.
What's the most painful/hilarious place you've been stung?
I was assisting in an East New York Community Garden while we were being videotaped. As I was taking the honey laden super back to the car I got stung under my jeans right behind my knee. Each step would cause extra venom to hurt the area. As soon as I got the super to the car I dropped my jeans and asked the videographer to help scrape the stinger out with my credit card. Of course I made sure taping had stopped.
Do you have a favorite kind of honey?
I do not have a favorite. I like all types of honey. I am in the wine industry and do many tastings. I run honey tastings just like I run wine tastings. One of my favorite tastings to run is to show multiple harvests from the same hive. It really adds a sense of time and place to the work my honeybees do.
Which honey week event are you looking forward to most?
Last year, I ran my first ever Honey Week event. Three local brewers, Finback Brewery, Transmitter Brewing and Bridge and Tunnel Brewery all made a beer using honey from my hives in their zip code. We then had a tasting of the honeys from each zip code as well as some savory snacks prepared by Norma’s from Ridgewood and Room 55 from Glendale. They of course, used my honey local to their establishments for the food. This event was held at the LIC Roots Community Garden in Long Island City. This is the first place I set up a hive and we raised money for the garden. I hope to do 1 or 2 similar events this year as well.
Have you visited other apiaries? If so, which was your favorite?
Part of how I increase my knowledge is by visiting other apiaries. I really don’t like to choose a favorite as I learn something from every beekeeper I meet and apiary I visit. Recently I got to visit a beekeeper in a monastery in Louisiana. That was really cool because he also volunteered in their woodshop where they build coffins made of cypress wood. I also was able to visit with an urban beekeeper in Sydney, Australia. He runs all the hives on rooftops in the city. While at his well-hidden apiary in the Royal Botanical Gardens, we talked about how to deal with varroa mites which thankfully, have yet to hit Australia.
What part of the hive's operations do you find most fascinating, brutal, and/or beautiful?
Everything that happens inside the hive in total darkness is fascinating. I really enjoy taking photographs and educating people about honeybees.