Ridge garden guru to teach classes on beekeeping

If you’re a Brooklynite that wants to get your beekeeping on before the spring bloom, you’re in luck.

Narrows Botanical Garden (NBG) will host “Beekeeping for Beginners” classes on Sunday, March 15 and March 22 from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the Bay Ridge Preparatory School, 8101 Ridge Blvd.

Jimmy Johnson – creator/landscape designer at NBG and experienced beekeeper, will teach the comprehensive three-hour course split between two weeks. Course topics include but are not limited to: start-up do’s and don’ts for urban beekeeping, purchasing and installing proper beehives/live bees, season-by-season care of live bees and honey extraction.

The idea came from him wanting to give people something to look forward to after being confined indoors due to the cold.

“We’ve all been stuck in the house,” said Johnson. “There’s only so much you could do in four degrees, so all of us are really suffering from cabin fever.”

He has been with NBG since its inception 20 years ago, and came up with the concept of the garden itself.

“It was an empty garden, kind of neglected,” said Johnson. “No one was really using it and now it’s a rising botanical garden where people are using it for movies, different events, gatherings and parties. It’s become a nice meeting place for a lot of people.”

Beekeeping in the garden has been around for a bit less than a decade and came to fruition as Johnson’s plant and animal fascinations coincided with each other. During high season, up to 70,000 bees are in each hive.

“Just the concept of having a hive that pollinates an incredible amount of plants in your garden and also brings in honey and pollen,” said Johnson, “it almost seemed magical to have one of them in your garden.”

When he first started classes to become a beekeeper, beehives went from illegal to legal in New York City. While times have changed, Johnson stressed that beekeeping isn’t just for anybody.

“The biggest challenges are making sure your bees don’t swarm, monitoring the hive from different diseases that they can get now that they didn’t get 25 years ago, and making sure that they don’t get infested with any problems,” said Johnson. “Right now, the biggest problem is mice. I have mice in my beehives, because the bees are warm, so they curl up to the bees.”

Anybody interested in attending should email Johnson at [email protected] for full details including the price of the classes. He said that those who participate won’t be let down.

“It’s an awfully exciting hobby and once you’re hooked, it’s fascinating,” said Johnson. “Every aspect of beekeeping is just really interesting if you love nature. The bee populations in general are crashing, so anything we can do to increase hive production and hives is a good thing.”

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