Last year, a local beekeeper, Beverly Keen, contacted me about photographing her bees and the honey harvest. While our schedules didn't match up last summer, we were able to get together this year. Mrs. Beverly was my husband's 7th grade science teacher and he LOVED her. She taught biology and after spending a day with her, it was evident she has a passionate soul for teaching and keeping her bees. This gracious, southern woman welcomed me to her home, clad with adorable bee paraphernalia, to teach me about the honeybees and reiterate their importance to our society. Bees are full of life, and it's truly amazing how they function as a colony and how vital they are to human life. When I asked her why she chose to become a beekeeper, she simply said, "The Lord just fascinated me with why he created bees, so when I retired, I decided it was my time to keep them."
Honeybees are a vital and important part of our agriculture, as they pollinate around 80% of our plants to produce fruits and vegetables. These fascinating, flying critters are not pests, however, they are the movers + shakers of our environment that keep the circle of life circling. If honeybees are healthy, our environment is healthy, which reflects in our overall health. Honeybees are important, y'all! Over the last 8 years, they have seen a significant collapse. In 2006, Colony Collapse Disorder, CCD, became a huge and mysterious killer of honeybees. Since the major collapse, CCD has killed 30% of the honeybee population each year. While many scientists and researchers now believe that it was a cyclical phenomena, possibly tied to certain pesticides, honeybees still aren't as abundant as they used to be, therefore putting our agriculture industry at risk. Could you imagine a life without apples, cherries, broccoli or any type of fresh produce? Or honey for that matter?!
Since then, many boutique apiaries have popped up across the globe. Everyday people raising honeybees to pollinate plants in hopes of improving the environment. Urban beekeeping boomed a few years ago utilizing rooftop space in big cities for bee hives and small gardens as people started to realize how important these relatively peaceful creatures are to securing our food supply. Also, people have realized all the health benefits that come from consuming raw, local honey, which unlike tupelo or clover honey, has a complex and dynamic taste as it comes from the nectar of a myriad of plants. It helps with allergies, is full of vitamins and minerals, and has natural antibacterial and antiviral qualities. Mrs. Beverly advised us to start sipping a tablespoon of honey everyday before bed because it's best for our health and contains tryptophan which helps us sleep. On top of the many benefits of honeybees and their honey, these buzzing critters and their apiaries are some of the most sustainable beings and "farms" around! Here's the sustainable cycle that Mrs. Beverly experiences at her apiary:
- The queen bee lays her eggs, or brood, to create drones (males) and worker bees (female),
- These bees grow up to fertilize the brood or pollinate her garden,
- Then they take the nectar to the hives in their nectar pockets, which then goes through the cycle of becoming honey,
- Mrs. Beverly takes the hives apart to harvest the honey,
- The wax is cut off and honey is extracted,
- The honey gets bottled up to sell and the wax gets melted down for candles (some people like to make beauty products with it!),
- The equipment used to extract the honey then gets put outside and the honeybees clean it spick and span as they eat up all the honey as one of their sources of food,
- And the cycle starts again!