RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) – If you take a trip to the Sankofa Community Orchard, you will discover that more than 20,000 honeybees work together. The bees are part of a new experience in the city of Richmond called City Bees RVA.
“The Sankofa Community Orchard is a great place to have honeybees. There are so many crops and flowers here,” explains beekeeper Dr. Hollee Freeman out. “There is so much to pollinate, doesn’t that benefit the garden? If their mission is to feed people, it’s perfect to have bees here.”
Freeman teams up with local beekeeper Nikiya Ellis to help demystify honeybees and educate the community about their importance.
“Bees generally pollinate 80 percent of our food sources. We must protect them. Our goal is to increase the honeybee population, which is one of the largest pollinators,” she said.
As an educator and author, Freeman says she has always been interested in nature. She originally contacted Ellis to interview her about farming, but then discovered that she was also a beekeeper. dr. Freeman became Ellis’s apprentice. The two now offer City Bees RVA:
City Bees is an engaging, educational program that unravels our understanding of honeybees and helps educate the community about the importance of bees in our lives.
City Bees allows participants to get a ‘bee-eye’ view of a hive through safe interaction with local bees, guided by two local (black, female) beekeepers. During this program, participants will better understand the work of beekeeping (including beekeeping inspections and hive management), the sacred history and biology of bees, weather and climate influences, environmental justice, and more.
City Bees is being held in person at a local orchard/farm in the Metro Richmond area. Programs take place over the weekend and are followed by tea time and Q&A with beekeepers. Participants can also taste local honey and learn how to support sustainability efforts in the region. Running time: about 90 minutes. Activity Cost: $50 per person
City Bees RVA is suitable for children (8 years +) and their families or groups of up to 5 people. City Bees RVA also works with student groups and, where necessary, offers comparable experiences using an observation cabinet.
In case of bad weather, the following Sunday will be programmed where necessary. If rebooking is not an option, you can enjoy a close examination of an observation cabinet at a discounted rate.
“Bees are interesting and fun and they live in colonies and they all have jobs and they work together. Could that be a metaphor for how we live and work together?” she said.
For 90 minutes, people aged 8 and over will have the chance to don a bee suit and interact with the beehive. The experience ends with tea, snacks and a Q&A and discussion with the beekeepers.
Inspired by her work with Ellis, Freeman wrote a book called “Beekeeping Besties: An Apiary Adventure.”
Now that she has learned more about beekeeping, Freeman says the work also has a cultural meaning and connection that she hopes to share with others.
“I think the sanctity of beekeeping goes back to ancient Egypt and that’s why as a black woman I respond to that,” Freeman said. “It’s soothing to be here (with the bees), there’s a kind of meditative, calm, vibrational frequency that touches me on a very deep ancestral level.”
In ancient Egypt, beehives were not in wooden boxes, but made of mud and clay. To pollinate flowers, beehives were stacked in pyramids and moved up and down the Nile on rafts.
It’s important for Freeman to share history.
“I definitely want to share the love for beekeeping and ecology with everyone – but most of all I want black and Latino people and students to understand (it’s ancestral),” she explained.
In his first few months offering City Bees RVA, Freeman has seen groups of all ages get excited about the hands-on experience. She hopes that people will leave not only with new knowledge and appreciation for honeybees, but also with a little more confidence in themselves.
“If you can feel confident doing this, you can also feel confident in school, on your skateboard, at your debate club,” Freeman said. “It’s just a window to help people approach things they may not know about and take it to other things (in life).”
If you are interested in City Bees RVA, click here to register.
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