There’s going to be more to my Superbowl Sunday than making seven layer dip, because before I turn on the game I plan on spending the day at William Penn Charter School, listening to the author of my favorite beekeeping book talk about how to get started with natural beekeeping.
Ross Conrad is a Vermont beekeeper who has developed successful techniques for keeping bees and making honey without chemicals. He’ll also be talking about apitherapy, which he describes in his book as the use of various products of the beehive to restore health and vitality to individuals with diseases or other health conditions.
I only started beekeeping a year ago, and frankly, I’m finding it kind of hard. Beekeeping is a technical pursuit that requires a fair level of commitment to understanding a tiny yet complex creature. The beekeeper’s job is to convince a colony of about 25,000 honeybees to take up residence in a wooden box, and then to do everything possible to keep them happy and healthy. Otherwise they will just leave. Or die.
Besides a lack of satisfactory accommodations, it turns out that there are a lot of threats to the honeybee, from other insects and pathogens, as well as from environmental hazards like agricultural pesticides, which are much less of a problem for urban beekeepers.
Many of the beekeeping resources I’ve come across recommend dosing the hive with a number of chemicals throughout the year. Other experts argue convincingly that it is the chemicals themselves, along with the cultural practices of the typical beekeeper, that serve to create a vicious cycle of ever weaker honeybee colonies.
Conrad is in the second camp, and his book Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture, outlines his strategies for managing hives naturally, and of course making lots of honey.
There are still spaces available for this presentation, and you can get details and register at the Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild website.