One day last week, several men who were going through New York City’s justice system were brought into contact with no less than five hives full of bees. Fortunately for them, the insects were not being used for punishment so much as they were for education–the men were through the Osborne Association, a non-profit that aims to change the criminal justice system through use of treatment, educational, and vocational programs in lieu of or in addition to prison time. That day, the men were learning to be beekeepers.

The teaching session was run by Dr. Todd Patton, a beekeeper who dispensed such quips as “Instead of hanging out on street corners like some people we know, [bees[ hang out about 600 feet up in the air.”Alex Candelario, one of the men, was–quite reasonably–wondering if he could use the bees for self-defense, rather than just honey. “If I’m their beekeeper and they see me fighting,” he asked Patton, “will sting the other person?” Unfortunately, according to the beekeeper, “it was unlikely that the insect would double as a bodyguard.”

(Photo: Jon Anderson/Flickr)