February 6, 2013
WHERE: Temple University Ambler, 580 Meetinghouse Road
WHEN: Class will run for 4 Wednesdays, February 27 to March 27 (no class March 13), 7 to 9 p.m.
Take a bite out of a succulent Georgia peach. Enjoy a tall, cool glass of orange juice with breakfast. Taste the sweet mess of a watermelon at your next picnic.
Now thank the honey bee for all of the hard work she has put into pollinating one third of all of the food crops that we consume in the United States.
Honey bees are an essential part of our ecological sustainability. Honey bees, however, are disappearing at an alarming rate. One way to help honey bees make a comeback is through “backyard beekeeping,” according to apiculture educator and master beekeeper Dr. Vincent Aloyo, of Blue Bell. While the region looks toward the coming winter and honey bees are nestled comfortably in their hives awaiting a warm day or two, Aloyo’s mind is firmly on the spring, when the honey bees will return in earnest to begin their important pollinating work.
“Statistics show that the number of honeybee colonies and native pollinators is on the decline as a result of a number of factors — new pests, development, pesticides,” Aloyo said. “We need bees to pollinate the fruits and vegetables that we eat every day. Honey bees also pollinate wildflowers, which are essential to birds and other animals.”
Aloyo will return to campus to teach the popular non-credit “Introduction to Beekeeping” course at Temple University Ambler beginning Wednesday, February 27. The four-day course will meet in the evenings at Ambler, 7 to 9 p.m., on February 27, March 6, March 21, March 20 and March 27 (there is no class on March 13).
“The goal of the course is to help someone decide whether beekeeping is something that they’d like to pursue and providing them the means and knowledge to get started,” said Aloyo, who has been beekeeping since 1966. “We want to really recharge the pollinator activity in the region.”
Aloyo said the course is truly geared toward anyone — from the backyard gardener to novice honey harvester to someone who is simply interested in learning “about these fascinating, complicated creatures.”
“We’ll go through some of the background biology, which is essential to being a good hive manager. One misconception is that bees hibernate during the winter,” he said. “That’s actually not the case. They will stay in their hive but as soon as it warms up they are out and ready to work.”
Registration for the Introduction to Beekeeping course is $85. Interested participants are asked to contact the Office of Non-Credit and Special Programs at 267-468-8500 for more information or to register.
Participants in the course will learn the basic principles necessary to begin beekeeping at home. Aloyo will discuss location requirements, how to obtain bees, required equipment, and how to care for a new colony in addition to sharing a basic appreciation for honey bees and their exceedingly important role in our lives. The course will also include a honey tasting with samples from a variety of regions, including overseas — “each sample has its own unique flavors; the taste varies with the flowers in that region.”
No prior knowledge of honey bees or beekeeping is required, added Aloyo. Budding beekeepers will have the opportunity to get hands-on with the hives located right in the Ambler Arboretum of Temple University.
“Really the whole point is to get people out working with the hives,” said Aloyo, who maintains three hives at Ambler. Campus faculty additionally keep several more hives on campus — each hive enjoys a thriving population of up to 50,000 bees during the height of hive activity in the spring and summer months.
Harkening back to the early history of the campus, where beekeeping was once a traditional course of study for the students of the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women — the forerunner of Temple University Ambler — Ambler Arboretum horticulturists began their own honey producing hives in the spring of 2009. Temple’s honey bees have so far produced hundreds of pounds of honey, no small feat considering that to produce one pound of honey, honey bees must visit two million flowers and fly 55,000 miles, according to the Montgomery County Beekeepers’ Association.
“As with any farming, you have to ensure that the bees have a sufficient food source, particularly in the spring and fall. Planting native, pollinator-friendly plants is very important for the health of a hive,” said Aloyo “Whether someone decides to keep bees or not, I hope they gain an appreciation for the value of protecting honey bees and supporting environments friend to local pollinators. It can only come back to benefit all of us in the long run.”
For more information about Introduction to Beekeeping, contact 267-468-8108 or email@example.com.
- One in three bites the average American eats is directly attributable to honey bees.
- Honey bees are responsible for the pollination of more than 100 crops, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, providing 80 percent of the country’s pollination service.
- The honey bee is responsible for pollinating $15 billion in agricultural crops each year. The California almond crop alone uses 1.3 million colonies of bees for pollination, approximately one half of all the honey bees in the United States.
- California is the largest producer of agricultural products with an estimated annual total gross crop value of $30.5 billion; Pennsylvania is also a major player in the agricultural world, with a total annual crop value of $4.5 billion.
- Honey bees are the only insect that produce food for humans, flying approximately 15 mph and visiting about 50 to 100 flowers in each pollination trip.
- When a honey bee returns to the hive, it gives out samples of the flower’s nectar to its hive mates. Then it performs a “dance” that identifies the distance, direction, quality, and quantity of the food supply. The richer the food source, the longer and more vigorous the dance.
- The principal form of communication among honey bees is through chemicals called pheromones.
- A single bee cannot make honey, it takes a whole hive.
- An average worker bee will only make 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.
- One honey bee colony can produce 60 to 100 pounds of honey per year.
- To produce one pound of honey, honey bees must visit two million flowers and fly 55,000 miles.
- Preceding humans by millions of years, the oldest bee fossil dates back more than 100 million years. Flowering plants appeared about 65 million years ago.
- Humans have been associated with honey bees since the era of cave men, and ancient societies in Egypt and Israel kept bee colonies for honey production.
- A queen bee can live for 2 to 5 years, a worker bee 1 to 4 months and a drone 40 to 50 days.
Bee facts provided by the Montgomery County Beekeepers’ Association