A group of beekeepers in the West Philadelphia area plan to establish an apiary (also known as a bee yard) in a quarter-acre meadow within the Woodlands Cemetery in West Philadelphia. Backed by UC Green, an organization which serves to promote cooperative community greening, the beekeepers claim that teaching about proper apiary maintenance will be a means of promoting sustainable environmental stewardship. In addition, local volunteer beekeeper Daniel Duffy will be leading a workday structured curriculum with his goal being to “empower high school students from underserved communities.”
According to Duffy, a member of the Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild (established in 2009) “Beekeeping has a history of serving as an educational tool and here it will establish pathways to employment.” Not only will this program teach the student beekeepers organizational skills that will be helpful for future employment, but it will also become the first bee-yard-to-farm-stand youth program in the Philadelphia area. The students involved will learn to manage part of the apiary and then eventually sell their own honey and pollen to local farmers markets.
In wake of rapidly dwindling bee populations, many important commercial beekeepers have abandoned the seemingly dying trade. The Woodlands Community Apiary, and all CSA’s alike (Community Supported Apiary), offers both an alternative to commercial beekeeping, and hopefully a solution to the dying swarms of bees. The critical difference between city apiaries and those in farm country has to do with the bees’ exposure to the chemical treatment and pesticides. It is believed that the use of pesticides can be partially blamed for the disappearing masses, as it leads to reduced variability among pollen types, thus making the bees less resistant to parasites. Without the pesticide treatment, it is believed that bees will gain the necessary resilience to combat these same parasites that are the cause of their demise.
The Woodlands Community Apiary has recently received enough funding to begin their project. They have already established community partnerships with Philly Rooted (to sell their products) and Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild, Milk and Honey Market, and Enterprise Center (to train student participants). With such good ideas in support of great causes, we really wish this project much success in the future. —-Alex Graziano