City Bees RVA shares the science, history and importance of beekeeping
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - If you take a trip to the Sankofa Community Orchard, you will discover more than 20,000 honeybees working together. The bees are a part of a new experience in the city of Richmond called City Bees RVA.
“The Sankofa Community Orchard is a great place to have honeybees. There are so many crops here and flowers here,” explained beekeeper Dr. Hollee Freeman. “There is so much to pollinate, which helps the garden right? If their mission is to feed people, it is perfect to have bees here.”
Freeman works alongside local beekeeper Nikiya Ellis, to help demystify honeybees and teach the community about their importance.
“Bees in general pollinate 80 percent of our food resources. We need to protect them. Our goal is to increase the honey bee population, which is one of the largest pollinators,” she said.
As an educator and author, Freeman says she has always been interested in nature. She originally reached out to Ellis to interview her about farming, but then discovered she was also a beekeeper. Dr. Freeman became Ellis’ apprentice. The two now offer City Bees RVA:
City Bees is an engaging, educational program that demystifies our understanding of honeybees and helps educate the community on the importance of bees in our lives.
City Bees allows participants to get a “bees-eye” view of a hive through safe interaction with local bees guided by two local (Black, women) beekeepers. During this program, participants will better understand the job of beekeeping (including apiary inspections and hive management), the sacred history and biology of bees, weather and climate influences, environmental justice, and more.
City Bees is held in person at a local orchard/farm in the Metro Richmond Region. Programs occur during the weekend and are followed by tea-time and Q & A with beekeepers. Participants will also be able to sample local honey and learn how they can support sustainability efforts in the region. Run time: approximately 90 minutes. Activity fee: $50 per person
City Bees RVA can accommodate children (8 years old+) and their families or groups of no more than 5 individuals. City Bees RVA also works with student groups, providing similar experiences using an observational hive, where necessary.
In case of inclement weather, programming will occur the following Sunday, where necessary. If rebooking is not an option, you can enjoy a close investigation of an observational hive for a discounted rate.
“Bees are interesting and fun and they live in colonies and they all have jobs and they work together. Could that be a metaphor for how we live together and work together?” she said.
For 90 minutes, people ages 8 and older get an opportunity to put on a beekeeping suit and interact with the hive. The experience ends with tea, snacks and a Q&A and discussion with the beekeepers.
Inspired by her work with Ellis, Freeman wrote a book called ”Beekeeping Besties: An Apiary Adventure.”
As she has learned more about beekeeping, Freeman says the work also has a cultural significance and connection that she hopes to share with others.
“I find the sacredness of beekeeping goes back to ancient Egypt and so as a Black woman I respond to that,” said Freeman. “It’s calming to be here (with the bees), there is some sort of meditative, tranquil, vibrational frequency that hits me on a very deep ancestral level.”
In ancient Egypt, beehives weren’t in wooden boxes, but instead made out of mud and clay. To pollinate flowers, hives were stacked in pyramids and moved up and down the Nile river on rafts.
It is important to Freeman to share the history.
“I absolutely want to share the love of beekeeping and the ecology with everybody - but I especially want Black and Latino folks and students, to understand (it is ancestral),” she explained.
In the first few months of offering City Bees RVA, Freeman has watched groups of all ages get excited about the hands-on experience. She hopes people will not only leave with new knowledge and an appreciation for honeybees, but also a little more confidence in themselves.
“If you can be confident doing this, you can be confident in school, on your skateboard, when doing your debate club,” Freeman said. “It is just a window into helping people approach things they may not know about and take it to other things (in life).”
If you are interested in City Bees RVA you can click here to sign up.
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