Richard Spiegel and Jenny Bach love bees.
Each of them has their own unique way of celebrating the beauty of a creature that brings so much abundance to our environment. At a crucial moment on the planet, when the bee population worldwide is being threatened, they are teaming up to present an Organic Beekeeping class that teaches future generations of beekeepers how to sustainably nurture bees and help them flourish.
Meet Teachers Richard and Jenny
Richard owns Volcano Island Honey, producer of a unique and exquisite delicacy, Rare Hawaiian Organic White Honey that comes from his small commercial apiary. Jenny is a hobby beekeeper who tends to bees on her holistic apiary, “Bee Love.” Although their approaches to beekeeping differ slightly, they both share a single vision of a world in which bees contribute positively to the Earth’s eco-system and receive the same respect in return.
Saving the Bee Population
There are many reasons for the recent decline in the bee population. Some of the biggest speculated influences are human use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) and “Terminator Seeds,” Varroa mites, and other parasites and pathogens. Considering that commercial beehives pollinate roughly one-third of America’s crops, including favorites like peaches, apples, and cherries, a rapid loss of bees can potentially have an effect on our food supply that is just now being seriously considered.
The importance of bees in the lives of Americans does not end with the availability and quality of agriculture. Small businesses like Richard’s honey company depend on a thriving bee population.
Sustainable, Organic Beekeeping
Responding to requests for this class, Richard and Jenny come together to teach sustainability and responsibility in beekeeping, and planetary stewardship. Richard offers students the perspective of organic beekeeping as a commercial endeavor, doing his best to maintain an natural apiary to produce the finest organic Hawaiian honey while also considering the real costs and decisions that go into producing honey for a profit. Jenny has the luxury of intimately tending her bees, and incorporating practices in organic beekeeping that some commercial keepers find impossible, despite their love of the animals.
Here is one student’s account of her experience after taking Richard and Jenny’s class. Kelli Bolger received a rare opportunity to learn beekeeping from some of the most passionate and compassionate people in the field…
If you simply asked me to spend the day sitting in a room with 20 “rugged individualists” (a category, Richard noted, which would include most beekeepers), I may have been a little hesitant. And yet, after doing just that, I came away energized and excited about my adventures ahead.
The first day of our Organic Beekeeping course was thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening. The energy of the class was perfect. Richard and Jenny are quite obviously knowledgeable about the world of bees, but more than that – they are emotionally invested and connected to it. After acknowledging that beekeepers, as individualists, tend to find their own way of doing things, Jenny and Richard shared their own perspectives and experiences. It was thought provoking to see the ways in which their perspectives overlapped – or didn’t – and how their mutual respect for one another and for the bees brought it all together. The conversation was fluid and flexible, and allowed for Richard and Jenny to share ongoing insights and questions that reflected the evolving nature of working with bees and the natural world.
Venturing into the social world of a bee colony – which can be seen as a Super Organism communicating through pheromones and dance – was fascinating. There is no way a beginner course like this could fully explore these topics, but Jenny and Richard did an excellent job of covering the basics of different roles within the hive, communication, reproduction, and the relationships of the bees to the environment outside of the hive. These relationships between the bees and the rest of the world got an extra close look, as the world of modern humans is colliding with the world of bees and having undesirable effects that we are only beginning to understand. Having this information will help us to be more conscious of our relationships with our own hives in the future, hopefully contributing to an overall shift towards increasingly respectful and responsible beekeeping.
I was ultimately pleased with the class, left feeling content and hopeful, and I arrived home full of amazing “oh my gosh, you wouldn’t believe…” information to share with my family. That night, I dove into the assigned chapters in the book and was happy to find them easy to read, reinforcing what was shared during class. Several questions came and went, and I should have done a better job of recording my thoughts before they slipped away during the week. I am eager for the next session and for the most exciting aspect of the experience – that one day in the near future I will have a hive of my own to watch and learn from.