The Work We Do: Christopher Kelly, Promised Land Apiaries

I’m Christopher Kelly. I’m the owner of Promised Land Apiaries located here on the North Fork of Long Island in Mattituck.

I’ve been running Promised Land Apiaries now for a little over 30 years, but I’ve been keeping bees for almost 48 years.

My primary goal is actually to rear Long Island survivor stock bees and we’ve been pretty successful doing that. Bees are under quite a bit of pressure now from parasites, pesticides and from loss of food. As a result we’ve got a real loss of honey bee genetics going on, and we’ve found that locally-raised bees survive better in our environment.

The second thing that we do is of course one of the byproducts of keeping beautiful honey bees is, guess what? They make beautiful honey. I have a management style philosophy when it comes to keeping bees at Promised Land Apiaries, which I call the minimally-intrusive approach. What that means is that the best I can do not screw the bees up. What we try to do is manage them so they can make enough honey for themselves to hold them over the winter, and then they make me a little bit.

When I harvest the honey here at Promised Land, we don’t heat. We don’t filter it. As it comes out is exactly what you see in those jars.

The honey that I sell out of my house here, quite honestly every year I have a 200 to 300 person list. But honestly the demand is so high for it. I made about 3,000 pounds of honey this year.

I had been a bug nut all my life. I wanted to start studying honey bees and my dad introduced me to a beekeeper in Lindenhurst. And it started as, I like them, and then I’m going to keep one or two bees and it kind of took over from there. I’ve gone to Cornell University and studied entomology, so I’m a trained entomologist. I recently did the master’s program in apiculture from Cornell. I was a professional beekeeper for a number of years out in Hawaii. It kind of went from being a sideline thing to really being a passion and a profession.

Training other beekeepers is probably my all-time favorite. I love the interaction with the diversity of people.

I have traveled around the world looking at beehives and I think Long Island’s honey is about the best there is.

“The Work We Do” is a Suffolk Times multimedia project profiling workers on the North Fork. It is made possible by Peconic Landing in Greenport. See photos on Instagram @thesuffolktimes.