The Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild is hosting their Natural Beekeeping Symposium on February 8 from 10 a. m. – 4 p.m. at Temple University. The fifth annual symposium will feature guest speakers Ross Conrad, a well-respected beekeeper and author of “Natural Beekeeping” and Katy Ciola Evans from the University of Delaware. Evans will share results from her 2014 Integrated Pest Management study of treatment-free beekeepers.
The Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild began in 2009 as a small, informed group of local beekeepers. Today, membership had grown to nearly 100 households. Its mission is to promote urban beekeeping and raise awareness on the impact bees have on our environment. In addition to annual events, the Guild hosts monthly meetings open to the public at St. James School in the Allegheny West section of Philadelphia.
“Beekeeping is one of the most unobtrusive means of producing crops in cities,” said Don Shump, president of the Guild.
Bees play a pivotal role in our environment. Foods such as almonds, apples, watermelons, blueberries, and oranges rely heavily on honey bees for pollination.
“We have close to 40,000 abandoned lots in the city of Philadelphia where weeds-a-plenty are allowed to grow unchecked. This may be considered a blight to some, but that’s forage for our bees,” Shump said.
From backyards to rooftops, apiaries (places where beehives are kept) can be found throughout the city. Urban apiaries are ideal for beekeeping because they are free of pesticides and other harmful chemicals. All apiaries must be registered with the PA Department of Agriculture, but there are no restrictions prohibiting apiaries in Philadelphia.
In addition, Shump added that they are in talks with local real estate agents to use lots that are currently for sale as a place to host apiaries. In addition, his company (Philadelphia Bee Company) is currently involved with a grant from the USDA that is helping them plant unused land with native plants that are pollinator friendly, which he said will serve as a demonstration piece for other properties in the city.
Unfortunately, they can’t track the bees that use the abandoned lots, due to to access issues and timing, according to Shump.
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“Most of our beekeepers work full time and do the actual beekeeping in addition to that, so there isn’t much time for checking bee numbers on abandoned lots,” he said, adding that they would like to have some research done on it.
While most people associate bees with springtime, beekeeping is a yearlong job. The extremely cold temperatures and lack of food takes a toll on bees each winter. Bees are cold blooded and must vibrate their wing muscles to generate heat. To help bees survive through the winter, beekeepers leave honey in the hives for the bees to eat.
In addition to a constant food supply, many beekeepers put up windbreaks around the hives and wrap them in roofing paper to help the bees maintain a constant temperature.
For more information visit http://www.phillybeekeepers.org/.
Image via Sarah Lou Plonski-30-
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