The Solidarity of Bees

Last week I posted on the Spirituality of Bees, but after my experience yesterday I am more inclined to “shift the focus”. I went to check on my bees supplies of honey, but for some reason they were particularly defensive. I don’t want to give the wrong impression, many times I have followed beekeeper Corwin Bell’s approach and engaged the bees with no real protection, and had no stings. Bees are generally peaceful, but… This time, I was all covered up, and still it was bad, I think it was because I broke a comb in the process. Anyway, I got stung many times. In one sense this is a true mark of spirituality, its not all honey, but also the sting of the cross.

Let me mention then someone who really does know what he is doing, Marty Hardison. Here are some of his pictures. Not only is Marty an expert beekeeper but he teaches beekeeping in developing countries to improve the standard of living and increase their income with honey sales. Marty has helped me greatly with my hive and also has assisted the nuns at Walburga Abbey in northern Colorado. Below his own bio:

Marty was born in Fresno, California, in 1946.  His first encounter with bees was in the summer of 1963.  At that time a commercial beekeeper and friend of the family asked for his help in loading up several hundred hives for transport out of California.  The problem the Commercial beekeeper was aiming at avoiding was frequent pesticide kills of his bees.  His solution was to move to South Dakota.

Marty didn’t begin keeping bees until 14 years later when he was living in Houston.  There he acquired two of the meanest colonies in Texas for Free!  Marty moved to New Mexico in 1978.  He is married to Dawn and has two grown children.  In 1997 he and his wife moved to Denver where they now reside.

Marty began beekeeping using Langstroth hives exclusively.  In 1980 he tried a topbar hive.  For the next ten years he experimented with top bar beekeeping and shared his evolving system with students and local acquaintances.  He sponsored the formation of a local beekeeper’s association which successfully quarantined the area against mites for 10 years.  One of his prime goals was to end up with a beekeeping method suitable for a development project in Haiti.  In 1991 that goal was realized when Marty traveled to Fon-de-Blanc, Haiti, under the auspices of the Haiti Christian Development Fund and set up a topbar beekeeping project.

From 1990 through 1997 Marty taught topbar beekeeping in various settings: Ghost Ranch, Flowering Tree Permaculture Institute, Earthworks Institute, and at various individuals homes.  He has talked to groups about topbar beekeeping at the University of New Mexico, Santa Fe Community College, Capitol Beekeepers in Austin, and at the New Mexico Beekeeper’s Association.  For the 1995 and 1996 season he was employed by a commercial queen rearing company on St. Simons Island off the coast of Georgia. 

In 1999 and again in 2000 Marty participated in a beekeeping development project in Mozambique, Africa.  The aim was to introduce topbar beekeeping to rural farmers.  The project was sponsored by ACDI/VOCA a development NGO.  Credit for sustaining the project for a full 5 years must go to Nicky Benn, the director of the Mozambique branch of ACDI/VOCA.  Without a sustained presence the project would have had little value.  Marty was involved in another ACDI/VOCA project in 2001.  At that time he traveled to the city of Osh in Kyrgyzstan where he taught beekeeping at the Bashat Women’s center. In 2007 he traveled to Azerbaijan to assist a remarkable beekeeper named Bedreddin Hesretov in the development of a commercial queen rearing project. In 2010 he spent two weeks in Egypt doing beekeeping consultation with high school agriculture teachers.  His most recent project involved a trip to Zambia during June of this year.  The aim of the project was the economic development of the rural northwest area of Zambia. The goal is to provide a fair market for the honey that is already being produced there and to make available improved beekeeping tools.

Presently he is building up his hive count in preparation for retiring from his full time employment next year.  He will focus his personal beekeeping out at Berry Patch Farms in Brighton and continue to mentor his three grandsons in the development of their honey production and sales.  Beyond that his hope is to find beekeeping opportunities in the global Catholic community.

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