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Urban Beekeeping and the Power of the Bee

Lisa Jean Moore

Publication Year: 2013

“Buzz is a fascinating reminder of the interconnections between humans and animals, even in that most urban of environments, New York City.”
—Gary Alan Fine, author of Authors of the Storm: Meteorologists and the Culture of Prediction 
Bees are essential for human survival—one-third of all food on American dining tables depends on the labor of bees. Beyond pollination, the very idea of the bee is ubiquitous in our culture: we can feel buzzed; we can create buzz; we have worker bees, drones, and Queen bees; we establish collectives and even have communities that share a hive-mind. In Buzz, authors Lisa Jean Moore and Mary Kosut convincingly argue that the power of bees goes beyond the food cycle, bees are our mascots, our models, and, unlike any other insect, are both feared and revered. 
In this fascinating account, Moore and Kosut travel into the land of urban beekeeping in New York City, where raising bees has become all the rage. We follow them as they climb up on rooftops, attend beekeeping workshops and honey festivals, and even put on full-body beekeeping suits and open up the hives. In the process, we meet a passionate, dedicated, and eclectic group of urban beekeepers who tend to their brood with an emotional and ecological connection that many find restorative and empowering. Kosut and Moore also interview professional beekeepers and many others who tend to their bees for their all-important production of a food staple: honey. The artisanal food shops that are so popular in Brooklyn are a perfect place to sell not just honey, but all manner of goods: soaps, candles, beeswax, beauty products, and even bee pollen.
Buzz also examines media representations of bees, such as children’s books, films, and consumer culture, bringing to light the reciprocal way in which the bee and our idea of the bee inform one another. Partly an ethnographic investigation and partly a meditation on the very nature of human/insect relations, Moore and Kosut argue that how we define, visualize, and interact with bees clearly reflects our changing social and ecological landscape, pointing to how we conceive of and create culture, and how, in essence, we create ourselves.
Lisa Jean Moore is a feminist medical sociologist and Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at Purchase College, State University of New York.
Mary Kosut is Associate Professor of Media, Society and the Arts at Purchase College, State University of New York.
In the Biopolitics series

Published by: NYU Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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1. Catching the Buzz: Introduction

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pp. 1-14

As long-term New York City residents, neither of us would consider ourselves to be huge animal lovers or nature enthusiasts. We go on occasional hikes or camping trips to escape the city, but there is always something strangely comforting about driving back into the metropolis and feeling the energy of the city—the architecture, the noises, and the...

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2. Buzzing for Bees: From Model Insect to Urban Beekeeping

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pp. 15-43

There are approximately 230 different species of bees living in the greater New York metropolitan area.1 As the city swarms with human activity, these bees quietly pollinate fruits, vegetables, plants, and wildflowers, playing an integral part in the local urban ecology.2 Bees have always lived throughout the five boroughs of New York with or without...

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3. Saving the Bees: Colony Collapse Disorder and the Greening of the Bee

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pp. 44-84

Chances are that you have heard something about the bees’ plight and the ominous phenomenon of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Beginning around 2006, CCD has been reported and documented extensively in the American media, reaching wide-ranging audiences and igniting an ecopolitical buzz around the honeybee. The story of CCD has been...

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4. Being with Bees: Intimate Engagements between Humans and Insects

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pp. 85-122

Worker bees can live from four to nine months during the winter, but the average life span of a worker bee in summer ranges only six to eight weeks. Aside from the queen, who may live to be several years old, bees’ lives are fairly abbreviated when compared to other species. Elephants and certain parrots live up to seventy years, and...

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5. Entangling with Bees: Sex and Gender

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pp. 123-143

As you might expect, the walls of Sunflower Academy in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, are covered with letters, numbers, shapes, and colors arranged in a slightly frenzied yet organized manner. Once you’ve entered and turned to face the cubbyholes, you are met by smiling, cheerful yellow and black bees that adorn the walls, with the date and days of...

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6. Breeding Good Citizens: All-American Insects

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pp. 144-175

In spring 2011 in New York City, tens of thousands of bees collectively decided to vacate their hives in search of a more amenable place to live. Flying together in mutable bunches that can resemble a revolving insect tornado, swarms of bees ended up at a BP gas station in Brooklyn, a yellow barrier on the Lower East Side, and a mailbox in Little Italy (just...

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7. Deploying Bees: The Work of Busy Bees

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pp. 176-208

Arriving at Rockaway Beach in Queens at precisely the same time, we waved and exchanged beaming smiles. Quickening our steps along the boardwalk, we are filled with the excitement of urban researchers out of their normal gritty habitat. We are on a break from the “field” of rooftops, postage-stamp-sized backyards, cement-enclosed...

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8. Becoming Bee Centered: Beyond Buzz

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pp. 209-220

We entered the field with the desire to understand our fellow urbanites in their yearning to “connect with nature” through gardening, chickens, bees, window boxes, community-supported agriculture, and metropolitan farmers’ markets. In sociology speak, beekeeping was a “doable project.” We established our entrée with a diverse community of beekeepers...


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pp. 221-236


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pp. 237-240

About the Authors

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pp. 241-252

E-ISBN-13: 9780814763070
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814763063
Print-ISBN-10: 0814763065

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 862888315
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Buzz