City Bees RVA shares the science, history and importance of beekeeping

RICHMOND, Virginia (WWBT) – If you take a trip to Sankofa Community Orchard, you’ll discover more than 20,000 bees working together. Bees are part of a new experience in the city of Richmond called City Bees RVA.

“Sankofa Community Orchard is a great place to have bees. There are so many crops here and flowers here, “explained beekeeper Dr. Hollee Freeman.” There’s so much to pollinate, which helps the garden, right? If their mission is to feed people, it’s perfect to have bees here “.

Freeman works alongside local beekeeper Nikiya Ellis to help demystify bees and teach the community their importance.

Dr. Freeman works alongside local beekeeper Nikiya Ellis to help demystify honey bees and help teach the community their importance.(Dr. Hollee Freeman)

“Bees in general pollinate 80% of our food resources. We need to protect them. Our goal is to increase the honey bee population, which is one of the largest pollinators,” he said.

As an educator and author, Freeman says she has always been interested in nature. She initially contacted Ellis to interview her about agriculture, but then she found out that she was also a beekeeper. Dr. Freeman became Ellis’ apprentice. The two now offer City Bees RVA:

City Bees is an engaging educational program that demystifies our understanding of honey bees and helps educate the community about the importance of bees in our lives.

City Bees allows participants to have a “honeycomb” view of a beehive through safe interaction with local bees led by two local beekeepers (black, female). During this program, participants will gain a better understanding of beekeeping work (including apiary inspections and beehive management), the sacred history and biology of bees, weather and climate influences, environmental justice, and more.

City Bees is held in person at a local orchard / farm in the Metro Richmond region. Programs run over the weekend and are followed by tea time and questions and answers with beekeepers. Attendees will also be able to sample local honey and learn how they can support sustainability efforts in the region. Duration: about 90 minutes. Cost of the activity: $ 50 per person

City Bees RVA can accommodate children (ages 8 and up) and their families or groups of no more than 5 people. City Bees RVA also works with student groups, providing similar experiences using an observation hive where needed.

In case of bad weather, the programming will take place on the following Sunday, where necessary. If rebooking isn’t an option, you can enjoy an in-depth investigation of an observing hive at a discounted rate.

If you take a trip to Sankofa Community Orchard, you will discover more than 20,000 ...
If you take a trip to Sankofa Community Orchard, you will discover more than 20,000 bees working together. Bees are part of a new experience in the city of Richmond called City Bees RVA.(NBC 12)

“Bees are interesting and fun and live in colonies, they all have jobs and work together. Could it be a metaphor for the way we live and work together? she said.

For 90 minutes, people 8 years of age and older have the opportunity to put on a beekeeping suit and interact with the hive. The experience ends with tea, snacks, questions and answers and discussion with the beekeepers.

Inspired by her work with Ellis, Freeman wrote a book called “Beekeeping Besties: An Apiary Adventure”.

Because he learned more about beekeeping, Freeman says the work also has cultural significance and a connection he hopes to share with others.

“I find that the sacredness of beekeeping goes back to ancient Egypt and so as a woman of color I answer that,” Freeman said. “It’s soothing to be here (with the bees), there’s a kind of meditative, quiet, vibrational frequency that hits me on a very deep ancestral level.”

In ancient Egypt, beehives were not in wooden boxes, but instead made of mud and clay. To pollinate the flowers, hives were stacked in pyramids and moved up and down the Nile River on rafts.

It is important for Freeman to share the story.

“I absolutely want to share the love of beekeeping and ecology with everyone, but I especially want black and Latino people and students to understand (it’s ancestral),” he explained.

RVA city bees
RVA city bees(NBC 12)

In the first few months of City Bees RVA’s offering, Freeman has seen groups of all ages get excited about the hands-on experience. He hopes that people not only leave with new acquaintances and an appreciation for bees, but also with a little more self-confidence.

“If you can be sure of doing it, you can be safe in school, on your skateboard, when you do your debate club,” Freeman said. “It’s just a window to help people get closer to things they may not know and lead them to other things (in life).”

If you are interested in City Bees RVA you can click here to register.

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