The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy welcomed a few thousand new residents to their Asheville office this month. Two beehives, each housing roughly 3,000 bees at the start, now reside on a small porch overlooking Orchard Street, near downtown Asheville. Officially acknowledged as a Bee City USA, Asheville and several other cities around the U.S. have opened their community to honeybees and other pollinators, touting the economic and environmental benefits. We are thrilled to be part of the movement to support healthy honeybees and healthy ecosystems/communities!
But for SACE staffer Sarah Gilliam, who is the resident beekeeper in the Asheville office, honeybees are more than just bullet points on a fact sheet.
“We need bees as a living, eating species. No doubt about that,” said Gilliam. “But more importantly, becoming a beekeeper has taught me so much about slowing down, being patient and giving back to world around us.”
The two hives in Asheville are not the only ones maintained by SACE staff. SACE’s Executive Director, Dr. Stephen Smith, who was a practicing veterinarian before his career in the environmental arena, also has hives in his backyard in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Will there be honey?
Short Answer: Yes there will be honey. More appropriate answer: We will have honey when the bees are ready for us to take it. And we aren’t in charge of that timeline. Honey is the sweet reward of healthy, well-managed bees.
The honey question is by far the most common response when people hear you’re a beekeeper. And with new designs that turn hives into honey kegs, its easy to think bees and then think honey. We need to think beyond the consumer approach to bees and consider their health as a species. And here’s a crazy idea, think of what we can do for them, instead of what they do for us, which is plenty.
Keep up with our busy bees
In the coming months, colleagues and I will be working with Sarah Gilliam to learn the craft of beekeeping. SACE will post updates on the bees here on our blog, and we plan to live stream hive inspections via Periscope or Facebook Live. Make sure you follow SACE on Facebook and Twitter for live stream alerts and key updates on our new office-mates!
Helpful resources if you’re interested in honeybees
With article after article after article, public awareness about honeybees has never been higher, but its important to remember the other pollinators who need our help. And ultimately, if you want to help the bees you should become a beekeeper, but that’s much easier said than done. Do some research and then do what you can. Here are some helpful resources:
- Wanna keep bees? Are you sure? This book is a good place to start.
- Ok if you’re still down to be a beekeeper, take a course with your local bee club. For North Carolina, view local bee clubs here.
- If want to support bees but can’t commit to hives, you have lots of options. But start with planting native, pollinator-friendly plants, which will bring bees to your yard without setting up a hive!
- Buy local honey. Be sure to read labels to confirm its local.
- If you’re curious about other pollinators that need help, go here.
- Avoid herbicides/insecticides and consider opting out of mosquito-control services. If you can’t avoid these chemicals or sprays, read the labels carefully and apply them in the afternoon, once most bees have finished foraging.