Bee Keeping

Beekeeping has become an integral part of the Pine Mountain Arts outdoor curriculum . The purpose is to acquaint students with the fragile balance and interdependence of our planet. Modern commercial beekeeping and agricultural practices have led us over the past eighty years to a place where the healthy survival of this important insect is in serious jeopardy. From ancient times cultures from all over the world have venerated and kept this precious little insect in close proximity to themselves. Once it was the sweet product of the hive, honey, which was sought after, now about 70% of our important crops are depending on the honey bee for pollination.

Most of our fruit and nut production depends on bees, as well as the production of vegetable seeds. Through migrant beekeeping, the use of pesticides, fertilizers and pharmaceutical drugs we have invoked a worldwide crisis. The diseases and parasites befalling the honey bee have led to a point where towards the end of the last century we have lost up to half of all our colonies every year and the supply of bee pollinated crops is no longer guaranteed. Should bees perish from the earth there is a strong likelihood that the human race will also.

Sustainable practices

Our hives are carefully supported by sustainable, organic practices. The bees feed on a wide variety of crops and plants which are free of harmful chemicals

Here on Pine Mountain we are by several miles out of range of all such unhealthy farming and beekeeping practices. Our hives are carefully supported by sustainable, organic practices. The bees feed on a wide variety of crops and plants which are free of harmful chemicals. Each hive is allowed to keep 40-55 pounds of their own honey, which is not only the food, but also the medicine for the wintering colony. The feeding of sugar syrups and antibiotics is completely avoided.

Students learn a gentle approach to beekeeping, starting at first with observations from the hive entrance and in the natural environment, progressing slowly to observing inside hive activities and handling bees with a minimum of smoke and interference. It gives great joy and a strong sense of confidence to many young pupils to work in such a gentle way. We catch wild, feral swarms in the forests around us, swarms from our own hives of course and learn to divide strong colonies to create new hives. Queen rearing will be added in the near future.

For children and adults alike the harvesting and extracting of honey in mid to late summer is of course a highlight during the year. Only the honey not needed for the wellbeing of the colony during the winter is taken off or shared by the bees with us as a gift for our partnership with them. Conversations about the environmental needs and conditions of our planet and some medicinal uses of other hive products such as pollen and propolis round out our program.

Spring 2014 The Apiary Project at the Swanton Berry Farm is in it's second year now and the apiary is growing as yo can see in the pictures. Several students are also now attending their own colonies at home.