In his nearly two decades as a city cop, Michael Lauriano has never found himself in a sting operation — at least not like the one that had tourists, Twitter and Times Square abuzz a few weeks ago.
Lauriano, one of the NYPD’s two beekeepers, vacuumed what he estimated was 30,000 honeybees from the umbrella of a hot dog stand at 43rd Street and Broadway on Aug. 28. The bees are believed to have fallen from a nearby roof. Lauriano was called in to remove them.
Yes, he was busy as a bee that day, and the incident flew on social media, becoming a viral sensation.
Little has been said of what’s become of the bees since their brief star turn on Broadway. As it turns out, the honeymoon is far from over for Lauriano. The self-taught beekeeper adopted the horde of bees and is caring for them at his apiary in Suffolk County.
Lauriano, 40, said a love of agriculture led him to raise chickens several years ago. But it proved too demanding, he said, so he took up beekeeping instead. He earned his beekeeping badge about four years ago by watching YouTube videos and from his participation in Facebook groups. He’s held the position in the NYPD for a year. If there’s one thing about the beekeeping community, it is that it likes to share information, said the quirky cop.
“No one withholds information to have a better success at beekeeping than the next guy,” Lauriano said. “I’ve never met a beekeeper that didn’t want to share his or her mistakes or successes.”
Lauriano said his “containment” — the term he prefers to “rescue” — of the Times Square bees, took about 40 minutes and required he wear a cotton jacket, veil and gloves. It attracted an unlikely audience of about 500 onlookers, he said, and made for a scene straight out of a movie. There were no casualties and no stings reported.
“In that type of state, generally, the honeybees will not sting because they’re more concentrated on their survival,” the 18-year department veteran said. “Once a honeybee stings you, it’s death to the honeybee.”
The bee swarm that assembled on the umbrella that summer day was uncommon for that time of year, Lauriano said.
“Normally, the season for this thing called a bee swarm is in the mid- to late-spring,” he said. This is what led Lauriano and other experts to conclude the bees fell from a rooftop hive of a nearby building, likely a block away. It was the third swarm the officer said he's seen in the past year. Urban beekeeping is on the rise, according to Andrew Cote, president of the New York City Beekeepers Association. Various restaurants use the city-produced honey in their menus and cocktails, Cote said.
Lauriano used a low-suction vacuum to place the bees in a 5-gallon pail that has screening for ventilation.
Once in Suffolk, he placed the bees in a hive with a pre-existing comb so they didn’t have to build their own.
“I don’t want those bees to spend too much time going out to the wild and collecting pollen and nectar,” he said. “I’d rather them spend as much time as they can in the hive with nutrition I give them.”
Lauriano is feeding the bees a thick solution of sugar water as a substitute for nectar. They consume about a quart a day.
“There’s no question these bees are living the life,” he said, adding that in Manhattan, there are "very limited food sources."
The Times Square bees will likely take up permanent residence in the suburbs of Suffolk. Relocating could put the bees at risk.
“It would be too stressful to move these bees again,” Lauriano said.
He just plans to let them be.