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The secret life of Boston bees

Beekeeping conjures up  images of rolling fields on farms in Western Massachusetts, not concrete sidewalks in Mattapan.   

Beekeeping conjures up images of rolling fields on farms in Western Massachusetts, not concrete sidewalks in Mattapan.

But according to some city dwellers and state agricultural officials, there’s a population of beekeepers who raise bees, tend to hives and cultivate honey between the Hub’s brick buildings and city streets.

Mike Graney is one of those urban beekeepers.

He considers his hobby an obsession and maintains 12 hives along the Neponset River in Mattapan.

“It’s quite the urban lot. It’s tucked in between a gas station and a liquor store. It’s pretty rough and tumble, but a great spot for cultivating bees,” said Graney, a Cambridge chef.

Graney leases the spot from a gardening organization that owns the land, and last year he produced more than 100 pounds of honey. He sells the honey at local grocery stores and claims demand is high because of the belief that pollen in the honey helps to inoculate people from allergens.

“You are giving your body a small dose of what you are allergic to, and the next time you are exposed you don’t have the same reaction,” Graney said.

Graney’s hives are home to more than 50,000 bees, and he said there’s never been a complaint from a neighbor or a rogue sting reported from a passing pedestrian.

“Bees don’t go out of their way to sting people. The aggressive bee thing is hyped up,” said Graney, who himself has sustained hundreds of bee stings over the past few years.

Currently, the city lacks beekeeping regulations or permitting requirements. The state has an apiary department, but inspectors don’t enforce mandates in Boston, according to the Mass. Department of Agricultural Resources.

Up on the roof

There’s a new residence for 90,000 bees in Boston — the Seaport Hotel.

The hotel has recently made its roof home to two hives in order to produce honey for specialty dishes in its two restaurants.

It is also part of the hotel’s sustainability efforts in the hopes of boosting the struggling bee population.

 
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