The Buzz


A few months ago I went to a beekeeping workshop at the Laughing Waters Retreat Center in Gerton, NC (just east of Asheville). I started searching for a workshop to educate me on bees after I had had a conversation with a friend of mine from SF on bee colony collapse — it’s impact on plants and foods that depend on the hard-working, honey bee pollinators.

The workshop was given by Debra Roberts of the Honeybee Project of Asheville, NC. Debra is extraordinarily passionate about honey bees and nurtures her hives via the Survivor Bee Path. This form of beekeeping is more extreme than natural beekeeping as it is mostly interested in supporting the genetic diversity of the honey bees; for example, Debra does not take anything from the hives. She supports the bees this way because she loves them. She also believes it is a positive response to the industrial/traumatic handling of the bees in roving factory farms.


Her wisdom and love of bees came out when she said things like, “to approach bees, you need to be calm, present, focused, have clear intent, a positive attitude, respectful, and with an intention to benefit the ‘other.’ Bees smooth our edges and make us better human beings.”

Here are some more insights and fun facts she shared with us that day in May:

– there are 4500 pollinators in NC (mostly ‘incidental pollinators’), honey bees are the most hard-working

– 2,000,000 flower visits, 55,000 bee lives = 1 lb of honey (Ross Conrad, “Natural Beekeeping”)

– bees love lemongrass essential oil; it’s similar to the queen pheromone (colonies are pheromone-oriented)

– Native Americans called honey bees the “white man’s fly” because bees would fly about 100 miles in front of the settlers

festooning: lacy, cirque de soleil act where bees string together forming chains to build the wax structure of the honeycomb


queen piping: happens right before queen emerges from her cell; a rhythmical hum

– start your hives in the early Spring

– in NC there are two honey flows: black locust and tulip poplar flow in late April/early May and sourwood in early July

– Queens (f) – live for years, drones (m) – live for one season (and they can’t sting), and workers (f) – live for 3-4 weeks

– in the Winter, it is only the Queen and the worker bees (the ladies huddle together all Winter, basically, and vibrate their wings to keep warm)


She suggested the following if you are interested in beekeeping:

– find and join your local bee club
– find a mentor — listen and learn, ask questions and then ask some more
– read ‘Natural Beekeeping’ by Ross Conrad and ‘The Beekeeper’s Handbook’ by Diana Sammataro and Alphonse Avitabile
– you’ll spend about $750 to get started (two hives, bees, tools, and suit)

And, if you want to get even more inspired, check out this blog and this article on a friend of mine in DC, Michael Kiefer. He is the steward of 150,000 honey bees, a true urban permaculturist.

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2 thoughts on “The Buzz

  1. Pingback: Medicinal Salve and Bee Bounty | Madhupa Maypop

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