bee

An Earth Day to Remember

On April 22, 2016, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett kicked off Earth Day with a bang. Or rather, a buzz.

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Our Save the Bees Indiana project - a collaboration between the Arts Council, Earth Charter Indiana, and Bee Public - has an art exhibit on display now at the Artsgarden downtown. 4th and 5th graders from all over Indiana created 3-D bee sculptures from recycled materials to raise awareness about bees and pollinators. 

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We gathered at this space on Earth Day morning, along with students and teachers from Sidener Academy, Center for Inquiry (they walked there!) and Butler Lab School (they rode IndyGo!). 

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The Mayor spoke and proclaimed it Indianapolis: A Bee Friendly City Day, recognizing that we depend on pollinators for a third of our food supply and that Indianapolis can do more to help their declining populations. This is the first step to creating a bee-friendly city! 

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At the end of the event, students presented bee sculptures to the mayor and we all did the waggle dance! 

Wanna bee?

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It’s okay to be curious. Curiosity is the key to invention, the wick in the candle of learning. Heck, even bees are curious. 

Studies show that scout bees exhibit novelty-seeking behaviors similar to humans in order to find food and housing. Scientists found that genes related to dopamine and glutamate signaling between neurons, which are involved in regulating novelty-seeking in humans, are differentially expressed in scouting and non-scouting bees.

So make like a bee and get curious about beekeeping. Here are a few lists and links to get you started. Stay tuned to the Bee Public Facebook page for upcoming beekeeping classes.

Stuff you’ll need: 

  • Hive + hiveware (I wrote a little bit here about local (Indiana) resources for beekeeping equipment.) 
  • Smoker (lighter/matches + stuff to burn)
  • Hive tool
  • Bee brush
  • Jacket/veil
  • Gloves
  • Entrance reducer
  • Mouse guard
  • Feeder + jar
  • Bees! 

First, you’ll need to decide where your hive will live. 

All of my hives live on urban farms around Indianapolis, which is ideal for many reasons. The bees have a smorgasbord right outside their front door, and the crops benefit greatly from their pollination services. You can keep bees in your backyard or even on your roof if you have a sunny, 5 x 5 space. If possible, the entrance should face the south, so the sun wakes up the bees and they get busy foraging first thing in the morning. Consider your neighbors and make sure a water source is readily available for the bees. They need to drink, too!

Other ways to ready yourself: Read as many books as you can. Here are a few recommendations. 

There’s an endless catalogue of beekeeping videos on YouTube. Go nuts. You should also attend Bee School or a local beekeeping meeting and get to know other beekeepers. Beekeepers LOVE to share! And stay tuned to Facebook and Twitter for Bee Public’s 2015 classes.

If you have a specific question, please feel free to email me at beepublicproject@gmail.com. 

Look who's #7

I picked the worst year to become a beekeeper. Since 2006, bees have had a rough go of it and 2014’s polar vortex-induced deep freeze wiped out around 50% of the hives in Indiana (some areas had a 90% die-off rate). My first year keeping bees and I lost all five of my hives. 

It was also kind of a crappy year to take up farming. The winter delayed progress on my site’s build-out and spring plantings. I rushed to build the farm in time for spring plantings and it left me sore and exhausted. Then we had a weirdly wet and mild summer that stunted my fruiting crops like tomatoes.

All this might have been enough to discourage me, but it didn’t even come close. Because I had a tremendous amount of support from friends, family, the people I work with, and my community, it hardly made a dent. Thank you. 

This recent article from the Indy Star says they expect big things from me in 2015. And who am I to let them (you) down? 

Happy New Year!

What’s in store for 2015? 

- Bee Public will manage hives at each of Growing Places Indy’s urban microfarms, including the rooftop “Sky Farm” on top of the Eskenazi Hospital and the Public Greens farm along the Monon Trail in Broad Ripple. 

- More classes and talks including a beekeeping talk at Earth Day Indiana

- Bee Public is working with City Council members to regulate the use of neonicitinoid pesticides in Indy’s parks and public spaces. (Read more about this here.) 

Feelin’ the love today! An excellent writeup about Bee Public by local urban homesteading/sustainable lifestyle writer and all-around inspiring woman,  Shawndra Miller :  
 “Kate Franzman is one of many fabulous people who keep the “indie” in Indianapolis. Concerned about the die-off of honeybees, she started Bee Public with a goal of increasing the number of honeybees in our city. The organization has placed hives at several urban farms, including one right in my neighborhood.” 
 Check out the full post  here .

Feelin’ the love today! An excellent writeup about Bee Public by local urban homesteading/sustainable lifestyle writer and all-around inspiring woman, Shawndra Miller

“Kate Franzman is one of many fabulous people who keep the “indie” in Indianapolis. Concerned about the die-off of honeybees, she started Bee Public with a goal of increasing the number of honeybees in our city. The organization has placed hives at several urban farms, including one right in my neighborhood.”

Check out the full post here.

Bay-bee, it's cold outside

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Here in the Midwest, we’re experiencing some freakishly frigid weather. I’m talking record breaking, with its own catchy/ominous name– the Polar Vortex

As the snow fell and temps plummeted, lots of folks dashed to the grocery store to stock up on essentials, returning home to cuddle up for warmth. That’s not too far off from what bees do for the winter months.

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Honeybees are one of the only insects that survive the winter as a hive. They form a “winter cluster” inside the hive as soon as the temperature dips below 55°F. The winter cluster remains remarkably warm (95°F).

Bees don’t hibernate like bears, instead they keep moving and rotating, the queen in the center, to keep the cluster’s temp up. No doubt working up quite an appetite. 

As a beekeeper, I can help them out by creating a windbreak (making sure to keep the entrance open) and tilting the hive ever-so-slightly forward so any condensation drips out, not on the bees.  

Today it’s very cold. The bees are clustered up, conserving energy, and eating their nutritious honey stores, which they spent all summer long gathering in preparation for a day like today. Not unlike our own frantic, pre-snowpocalypse trip to the store for the bread and milk.