Baltimore’s most ardent apian enthusiasts don’t like to call themselves beekeepers. “Honeybees keep us,” notes Meme Thomas, who prefers the term “honeybee steward.” Thomas heads up Baltimore Honey, a local non-profit that’s been getting some buzz (sorry, couldn’t resist) lately for its innovative bee-centric programs, most notably starting the nation’s first apiary CSA. Now Thomas is hoping to recruit a whole new crew of bee (and honey) lovers to help with the honeycombs that the group has in every zip code of Baltimore City — and maybe one of them will be you?
Thomas’s honeybee steward workshop kicks off in September, and promises to teach all-natural methods of honeybee care. After completing the course, certified hive stewards can take over responsibility for a hive, which includes providing fresh water, live plant nectar, and generally watching over their new bee friends. (If you’re more interested in the honey and less so in the bees, there are other ways to get involved — joining the Baltimore Honey CSA, for one. If you’ve got a lot that’s at least 2500 square feet, you can host a hive on your land, which requires no work at all — the hive stewards will take care of it for you.)
Thomas’s vision is both small-scale and ambitious: “I want to create a network so you start small and expand from there,” she told the Rodale Institute earlier this year. “You start with one hive host and the five families around that host—that creates one patch. The neighbors begin to realize honeybees aren’t a threat, plus they get honey to eat. Rumor spreads and you have more people interested in hosting hives around that patch. As you expand, it creates a network. If you have a hive on your property, it creates community.” And because bees are pollinators, the more hives we have, the more food security there is.
But Thomas also sees hive stewardship in more mystical terms. “Once you’ve gone into the hive, it is the most magical thing in your life,” she says. “It is transforming. The whole colony is dependent on the queen and her daughters take care of her. If you become the queen bee of your colony and your household and your community, and then indoctrinate another queen bee—if we have a community of queen bees—we can make significant change.” Read more about the five-session honeybee stewardship workshop here.