President of the United Nations General Assembly, Peter Thomas, welcomed a delegation from Italy to the UN North Lawn Garden on June 1, where they will be taking up permanent residence.
The 150 Apis mellifiera linguistica, or Italian honeybees, were a donation from Bees without Borders, a nonprofit started by a Andrew Coté, a fourth-generation beekeeper who is an urban beekeeper with beehives all over the New York City.
Coté founded the organization to alleviate poverty, and travels the world teaching people how to raise bees. The benefits of honey, he says, are that it doesn’t spoil, making it a long-selling commodity, and because bees are relatively low-maintenance, they can be done as a part-time job.
Bees without Borders has offered to tend the three hives at the UN, and proceeds from the estimated 250 pounds of honey the hives are estimated to produce each year will go back to the nonprofit.
But there’s a bigger reason these bees are important—they pollinate an estimated 30 percent of our food. Bees have been dying all over the country, and while no one knows exactly all the reasons, it’s clear that their health is directly linked to that of human food safety.
Last February, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released a report that said having more pollinators like bees around could increase yields in farming plots by a median of 24 percent.
“We’re really happy to have them here because as you know, this year is all about the Sustainable Development Goals, and a big part of the Sustainable Development Goals is biodiversity and healthy living, respect for nature, balance in nature,” said Thomas.
He said the United Nations in Nairobi and Geneva already have hives, “so we’re actually laggards here at the United Nations in New York.”
Bee health is the gospel that Coté spreads throughout his work and life.
In addition to traveling and teaching all over the world with Bees Without Borders, he founded the New York City Bee Association in 2008 to promote bee learning, and was instrumental in the legalization of beehives in New York City in 2010.
He also works as a consultant for restaurants, and has become famous for putting beehives on some of New York’s most iconic buildings, such as Brooks Brothers, the Waldorf Astoria, and the Google building.
When he’s not racing around tending to all his hives, he can be found at Union Square’s Greenmarket selling his Andrew’s Honey.
The honey produced from the hives at the UN will be on sale in the UN gift shop.