Take a bite out of a succulent Georgia peach. Enjoy a tall, cool glass of orange juice with breakfast. Taste the sweet mess of a watermelon at your next picnic.
Now thank the honey bee for all of the hard work she has put into pollinating one third of all of the food crops that we consume in the United States.
Honey bees are an essential part of our ecological sustainability. Honey bees, however, are disappearing at an alarming rate. One way to help honey bees make a comeback is through “backyard beekeeping,” according to apiculture educator and master beekeeper Dr. Vincent Aloyo.
“Statistics show that the number of honeybee colonies and native pollinators is on the decline as a result of a number of factors — new pests, development, pesticides,” Aloyo said. “We need bees to pollinate the fruits and vegetables that we eat every day. Honey bees also pollinate wildflowers, which are essential to birds and other animals.”
Aloyo has taught the popular non-credit “Introduction to Beekeeping” course, offered by Temple’s Office of Non-credit and Continuing Education, at Temple University Ambler for many years.
The next course will be offered during seven sessions from Tuesday, February 2 through Saturday, March 20. Register online today! The spring 2021 program will be offered as a hybrid course that includes online class sessions offered via Zoom on February 2, 4, 16 and 18 and March 16 and 18.
The program will be capped off with an in-person session at Temple Ambler on Saturday, March 20 (participants will be required to wear a mask on campus. COVID-19 protocols are in place for the safety of all campus visitors).
During the hands-on portion of the course, participants will have the opportunity to experience opening a beehive and handling honey bees; examine the hive for all four development stages of honey bees; look for males (drones) and the queen; demonstrate how to determine if the hive is healthy; observe bees returning to the hive with pollen and look for stored pollen and honey in the hive. Aloyo will also demonstrate how to feed honey bees sugar syrup and pollen substitute and explain why such feeding may be necessary.
“The goal of the course is to help someone decide whether beekeeping is something that they’d like to pursue and providing them the means and knowledge to get started,” said Aloyo, who has been beekeeping since 1966. “We want to really recharge the pollinator activity in the region.”
The course is truly geared toward anyone, Aloyo said, from the backyard gardener to novice honey harvester to someone who is simply interested in learning “about these fascinating, complicated creatures.”
Aloyo maintains three hives at Temple Ambler. Each hive enjoys a thriving population of up to 50,000 bees during the height of hive activity in the spring and summer months.
Harkening back to the early history of the campus, where beekeeping was once a traditional course of study for the students of the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women — the forerunner of Temple University Ambler — Ambler Arboretum horticulturists began their own honey producing hives in the spring of 2009. Temple’s honey bees have produced hundreds of pounds of honey, no small feat considering that to produce one pound of honey, honey bees must visit two million flowers and fly 55,000 miles, according to the Montgomery County Beekeepers’ Association.
“As with any farming, you have to ensure that the bees have a sufficient food source, particularly in the spring and fall,” said Aloyo. “Planting native, pollinator-friendly plants is very important for the health of a hive.”
Learn more about Introduction to Beekeeping and hundreds of other non-credit courses offered at Temple University.