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  • Writer's pictureAccokeek Foundation

The Indispensable Honeybee

Inside one of the Ecosystem Farm's four honeybee hives.

During this time of bright sunshine and bountiful harvests from farms and gardens all over the region, it is important to stop and thank those creatures that have helped our produce grow. Like the toads that eat up the grubs and slugs that would otherwise damage our crops. Or the parasitic flies and wasps that help growers control various pests. Or the multitude of pollinators that allow our fruits and vegetables to develop, mature, and ripen to harvest.

One of our favorite pollinators at the Accokeek Foundation is the honeybee, a small and social insect that is essential to crop production in the United States. We have four hives of honeybees on the Ecosystem Farm. Established last season, these hives are now cared for by Agricultural Coordinator Jose Castillo, who began beekeeping close to 30 years ago and now has 10 hives in his Hyattsville backyard.

While the river and trees that skirt the edges of the Ecosystem Farm make it a less than ideal location for beekeeping, Jose has noticed our honeybees hard at work pollinating several spring and summer crops—just one more affirmation that farms and gardens can benefit from having hives on site.

Agricultural Coordinator Jose Castillo peeks inside a hive of honeybees.

But beekeeping can be so much more than an agricultural endeavor. For Jose, it is also a matter of personal health: the honey that he harvests presents him with an alternative to processed sugar; the pollen and propolis that he gathers from his hives provide him with a source of protein and a boost to his immune system, respectively; and the time that he spends watching his bees buzz to and fro can be something of a therapeutic experience.

In hopes of encouraging and educating others to practice beekeeping in their own backyards, Jose will be leading a beekeping workshop at the Accokeek Foundation on Saturday, August 27, 2011, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. This course will cover a range of topics, including the what, where, and how of basic beekeeping. For more information, click here.

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