Douglaston neighbor buzzed on beekeeping

Douglaston resident Ruth Harrigan tends to a new swarm of bees she captured from Manhattan last weekend. Photo courtesy Kieran Harrigan
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Nothing makes Douglaston’s Ruth Harrigan buzz more than bees, and with four hives of her own, she keeps busy with her winged workmates.

“I draw life lessons from the bees in everything they do,” Harrigan said. “They are so caring, so nurturing and they all have their place in the hive.”

After finding herself with a brand new swarm after a Manhattan beekeeping friend notified Harrigan of her bee-infested rose garden, Harrigan said she was happy to tend to the noisy neighbors.

“I spend an hour or two each weekend just tending to bees,” Harrigan said. “The buzzing sound is very soothing to me.”

Harrigan, a three-year veteran of beekeeping, said she soon would place the new swarms into a hive of their own to join the four hives she keeps in a friend’s backyard in Douglaston.

According to Harrigan, Douglaston’s scenic landscape provides the hives with plenty of food, allowing them to flourish at a time when bees have become scarcer as a species.

“Location is key to keep beehives,” Harrigan said. “I want to contribute in my own way to help this planet, and by keeping bees I can help bring them back as well as pollinate all the trees in our area.”

Scientific studies have suggested the declining population of bees might be linked to commonly used pesticides.

Harrigan said she stumbled upon the joy of beekeeping accidentally while researching chickens, which she was going to buy for her children as a pet. What originally started out as a quick read on the 2010 legalization of beekeeping in New York City quickly grew wings of its own. Within months, the Douglaston resident had signed up for a crash course on beekeeping and was immediately sold.

“I realized quickly that I loved bees and this was something I had do to,” Harrigan said.

Since then, Harrigan said she has spent every fall at the Douglaston Arts Festival selling the honey her bees produced with as many as 50 pounds each year. The goal, she said, was to raise awareness in the neighborhood and get residents interested in talking about the wonders of bees.

“I don’t think people know that human beings would not exist without honeybees,” Harrigan said. “My friends who used to be very quick to exterminate look at bees very differently now.”

But that does not mean her buzzing buddies always play nice. Harrigan said she has received her fair share of bee stings, for better or worse.

“I’ve been stung plenty of times,” Harrigan said. “But they weren’t always harmful. After one accidental sting on my arm, I had stopped suffering from back pain I was experiencing around that time. It never came back.”

While tending the bees, Harrigan said she was most fascinated by the politics within the hive.

“Everyone has a task, and that is how they run the colony so efficiently,” Harrigan said. “We have much to learn from them.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Posted 12:00 am, May 26, 2012
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