RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Time now for StoryCorps. And today we're going to hear from a man who, for 20 years, repeatedly saved New Yorkers from bees. Anthony Planakis is a fourth-generation beekeeper and a retired New York City Police detective. He served as the NYPD's unofficial beekeeper starting in 1995. It earned him the nickname Tony Bees.
ANTHONY PLANAKIS: When you're going through the academy, they put out this little card. And they ask you on there - hey, whatever you are interested in, just put it down over there. Beekeeping - of course, I put that down. And very first job - the sergeant comes right up to me. And I just look up, and I go - hey, Sarge. And he goes, bees? And I go, yeah. Where? Harlem. And I go, cool. That was it. That was the first job I handled.
Whenever I'm working a swarm, I hear nothing around me. I mean, you can have a jackhammer running down below; I wouldn't even hear it. I'm in the perfect world then. Actually, that's the only time I feel safe. I'm never scared, never afraid.
So I think it's in my blood. My father was taught the art of beekeeping by my grandfather. But growing up, I wanted nothing to do with. Then 1977, springtime, my father looked at me and he goes, grab that chair. Sit in front of the hive. I looked at him, and I go, you're crazy. I'm not sitting in front over there. And he goes, just sit there. I want you to see what's going to happen.
The sun was just coming up over the hill. Dawn was just breaking. Lo and behold, as soon as that sun hit that hive, they started flying out. Let me tell you - that was the alarm clock going off, and it was gorgeous. It was beautiful. And he goes, they know what to do. They have to work. And that's their job, to work until they die. And I mean, that's what I do. I don't go on vacations. I see it as a waste of time (laughter) because I'd rather work with them.
And - I look at them as my children, which I don't have any children. But I look at them as, I took it upon myself to say - hey, you know, I'm adopting, you know, 27,000 kids right here, so I better be looking out for them. So I've learned from the bees patience, respect, you know, and, I guess, work till you die.
(SOUNDBITE OF WEINLAND'S "FOR LAND FOR LOVE FOR TIME (INSTRUMENTAL)")
MARTIN: That's Anthony Tony Bees Planakis at StoryCorps in New York City. He retired from the NYPD in 2014, but he still takes calls about hives and swarms. His interview will be archived at the Library of Congress.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.