Table of Contents
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Join Nicole and Ariella from Honey Bee Wild as they talk about natural beekeeping and bee folklore.
What You’ll Learn
- What is “natural beekeeping” to Ariella?
- How we can learn from the bees
- Bee folklore
- The legend of Telling Of The Bees
- What is The Path of Pollen?
- The biggest challenge for women in beekeeping
Ariella is deeply committed to shifting how we perceive nature and our place within it. She honey bees as a bridge between the domestic and the wild. Ariella believes that as we serve them and learn from them, we learn more about our own interconnectedness with nature. She is also very committed to women in beekeeping. Ariella serves as an advocate for more women’s voices and feminine approaches to be included on the world stage of beekeeping.
Honey Bee Wild is about bridging a deeper connection between people and honey bees in a way that most supports honey bees. Ariella teaches treatment free and natural methods for keeping bees and is interested in how bees can help us reconnect to the natural world.
Resources & Links Mentioned
- Honeybee Democracy Book
- Tom Seeley Darwinian Beekeeping
- Natural Beekeeping Trust
- Beekeeping in Skirts Instagram
- Beekeeping in Skirts Facebook
- Honey Bee Wild Website
- Email us! [email protected]
*Denotes affiliate links
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Announcer: Welcome to the Backyard Bounty Podcast from heritageacresmarket.com where we talk about all things, backyard poultry, beekeeping, gardening, sustainable living, and more. And now here's your host, Nicole.
Nicole: Good morning everybody. Thank you for joining us for another episode of Backyard Bounty. Today I'm joined by Ariella with Honey Bee Wild and she's here to talk to us about some beekeeping and her take on beekeeping. So Ariella, thank you so much for joining us.
Ariella: Thank you. I'm really happy to be here. Thanks for inviting me on the show.
Nicole: Of course. I found you on Instagram. I've been Instagram stalking you for a while now. And I love all of your pictures and how you have your own take on beekeeping. So can you tell us a little bit more about you and what you have growing on in the beekeeping world?
Ariella: Absolutely. My Instagram is beekeepinginskirts and it's actually been a big part of my growth around beekeeping. It has been writing and sharing photos and it just a very slow organic growth around something that I love and documenting that. So I'm glad that you found me that way. I would say I've been fascinated by the natural world since I was very young. I've always had sort of an obsession about a thing for a little while, seashells when I was like in fourth grade and then it moved on to wolves for a number of years and so it's no surprise that it landed somewhere in the animal kingdom with bees. But I actually got into bees in a very different way than most beekeepers. I came to bees through studying and wanting to learn more about mostly women's tradition around European beekeeping practices, but more specifically European shamanism, which is bee shamanism, which is namely about a tradition that's been passed down through Europe around working with bees as a central motif and as animal guides and allies into healing work and that sort of thing.
Ariella: I've always been very interested in folklore and in people's relationship to nature as an anthropology major as well as music, that's where that comes from. As far as the bees themselves, I went to England to study a little bit more about this tradition and while I was there, a wild hive of honeybees moved into the wall of my house and I came home and figured, well, that's it, I guess I'm hooked. I went out into the library and internet world of beekeeping looking for resources and realized that what was available wasn't what I was interested in and started to do some soul searching and hunting for a kind of beekeeping that spoke to me and what that brought me to was building my first top bar hive, which is an alternative hive style and starting out as a treatment free beekeeper, which is what I did the following year.
Nicole: It sounds like the bees chose you in a way.
Ariella: I'd love to think that. A lot of beekeepers say that. I think people, whether they're conventional beekeepers or natural beekeepers often feel claimed by the bees or chosen by the bees in some ways more than setting out to start beekeeping yourself. They're very fascinating and humans have been deeply enamored and fascinated by honeybees. For all of time since our first relationships, you can even see cave depictions of honey hunters from prehistoric times.
Nicole: Yeah, it really goes back, I mean, follows civilization a form of a hunter gatherer situation. I guess it would probably be more gathering, do you stick to top bar hives now or have you branched out to other hive styles?
Ariella: In my dream of dreams, I would have a beautiful apiary with someone else gardening because I don't have a green thumb and lots of bee forage and almost every alternative hive style you could think of. I personally work with top bar hives and warre hives, which are kind of top bar hive as well. I work with clients who use your traditional Langstroth hive and in that regard I practice natural beekeeping styles and make certain adjustments within the hive to help promote natural ways for the bees to exist. But I'm also very interested in some of the incredible research out there that's going on around skep hives, log hives and alternative hive styles.
Nicole: We were lucky enough, I guess is probably the right word for one of our local bee club members brought me a log hive and he brought it to me with the intent of cutting it out and putting it presumably in one of my lengs, but I also have a top bar, but it's been so neat that I've just left it. Of course it's a giant log, so it's a little cumbersome in that manner, but I'm interested in the log bee style as well.
Ariella: Is it an empty log or is there a hive in there?
Nicole: There's a hive in there. He brought it into with the bees in it and I just left it.
Ariella: Wonderful. That's exactly what I would do. They're so wonderful to watch and I think that a lot of the questions around beekeeping right now for people who are doing some of alternative styles are what can the wild bees teach us about bees? A lot of... you'll hear some people say that bees are domesticated, but that's not true. Really. You can never domesticate the honey bees, it's not going to happen. They, there may have been traits that have been bred out of them or bred into them by beekeepers over the years. But ultimately a hive can still swarm, which means reproduce, leave, and go live anywhere, whether that's the eaves of a barn or a cave or a hollow in a tree.
Nicole: You mentioned that you keep bees in a natural beekeeping technique. What does that mean for you?
Ariella: Well, I teach entire classes on that in particular. It's a long answer, but I'll try and shorten it up. Number one, I think that in order to start to serve the honeybees better and preserve the honeybees as a species, we need to change our language. And so with that, some new ways of talking about bees have evolved and new ways of talking about beekeeping. So there's natural beekeeping there's treatment free beekeeping, there's bee centric beekeeping. It all, to me, falls under the umbrella of natural beekeeping versus conventional beekeeping. Within that there are some pretty universal principles around how to keep bees that are the same. But there's a lot of differences. And you know this as a beekeeper... beekeepers are opinionated, beekeepers are emphatic, beekeepers are really interested in talking about bees, but also very passionate about what they believe.
Ariella: So I'm not here to say anybody's wrong, I'm just here to talk about the ways that I'm interested in working with bees, which is how do these live in the wild and how can we best emulate that? And here's why. Within studies, particularly studies done by Tom Sealy who wrote Honeybee Democracy, it has been discovered that wild honeybees have learned how to survive with the parasitic Varroa mite, which is the big baddie out there. The big thing everyone's trying to figure out how to get rid of by using things like chemical treatments and medicides. We've found that in the wild, bees have found a way to adapt and actually thrive. And that involves grooming the mites off of themselves and things like that. So within natural beekeeping, when we look to the wild, we're looking to what are the bees doing? How do they live naturally on their own? And one of the things is that they build their own comb. So for instance, in natural beekeeping, most naturally the beekeepers keep plastic out of the hive. They don't use plastic foundation. They often feed bees a mixture of honey and sugar as opposed to just sugar.
Ariella: There are treatment free beekeepers that don't use any chemicals in the hive as in chemical mitosises or treatments. There are natural beekeepers who use organic treatments such as exotic acid. So there's a lot of different ways to talk about it. But for me it's about how do the bees live naturally in the wild and how can humans best emulate that with things like alternative hive styles and certain beekeeping practices.
Nicole: So you mentioned that you like to use the top bar and the warre. You feel like those are more natural for the bees?
Ariella: To a degree. One thing that's been studied is, well there's two main factors for me around those types of hives. The warre hive is a tall hive and it has something called a quilt on top, which is a box usually filled with wood shavings, and it provides insulation like you would have at the top of the attic of a house. And that's proved to be really helpful in keeping the temperature inside of the hive maintained, whether it's hot or cold outside. So that's wonderful. It also allows the bees to build down naturally. It allows them to furthermore build their own comb and comb is part of the body of the super organism. So it's not just that it's where they store honey or where they raise their brood. There's more going on than simply a place to store things. And when that comb is plastic, it starts to interfere with what I would call the tissue of the colony.
Ariella: I'm not upset or shaming anybody's plastic in the hives. This is just another more natural way to work with how the bees would build in the wild top bar hives, and by this I mean horizontal top bar hives. Sometimes people call them Kenyan top bar hives. They emulate a log on its side and again allow for, how do I want to say this, one they're small, so it means bees are going to swarm more often as in reproduce more often, which allows for something called brood breaks. And when there's a brood break, there's a chance for the Varroa population to be diminished because the Varroa population thrives in the brood.
Ariella: So when there's a brood break, there's a break before the new queen starts lying. Very short lesson. The other thing about top bar hives is I consider them... I call them a one room hive, which means when I'm visiting the hive "inspecting the hive," I'm not taking apart boxes, I'm not taking apart part of the super organism. I'm leaving it all in one intact space and taking out one frame at a time. And as a result, there's less effort that the bees have to put into repropolising and there's just a little less stress on the hive where it haves you to take them apart box by box. So whatever kind of beekeeper you are, I think it's helpful to just continue to exercise the thought of I'm interacting with a super organism, not just with thousands of individuals. And that super organism has a body that extends beyond the interior, extends beyond the comb because each individual bee is part of that body. And maybe that thinking just shifts a little bit of how we might approach that body.
Nicole: Just from listening to the way you describe it. I feel like we keep bees in very similar ways. I use Langstroth hives, but I like to take that same approach and I'm working on getting some other hive styles. But I think that everything that you said really hits the nail on the head. Everybody does it a little bit differently and has their own little approach on it. But I completely agree with all of that.
Ariella: That's so great. And as you well know, there's lots of ways to use standard equipment which is really easily accessible to people out there who want to start beekeeping and to do it in a way that's really considerate of the bees. So I totally hear you. I'm glad that you're experimenting with Langstroth hives as well as being curious about other ways.
Nicole: What ways have you adapted the Langstroth hives to be more bee friendly?
Ariella: Number one, I go foundationless, so I don't use plastic foundation. I let drone brood occur in the hive. I don't cut it out. I do a quilt in Langstroth hives in the winter in particular. So you can get these boxes that go on top. They're about the same size as the super and they're used for feeders. You can find ones that are made out of wood. You can make one yourself. And instead of filling the two slots with feed, which you would like pour sugar water or honey water into, you can fill them with the wood shavings. And actually lavender can be really great. And it acts as a quilt in much the same way as an insulator and in much the same way that the quilt works in the warre hive. So that's an adaptation I make. I also like to reduce the entrance, but I think you can do that regardless of what kind of bee keeper you are.
Nicole: No, I do actually all of those same things as well. And then I actually have the addition of a really small one bee with upper entrance as well, just to give them another way.
Ariella: Yeah, I was going to say that, I drill holes in the top of the... They love an upper entrance.
Nicole: They do.
Ariella: My very favorite bee mentor out there. He lives in Sebastopol. I think he's from Germany. His name is Michela Fila it could be wrong, he could be from Austria, but I believe he's from Germany and he has Gia bees and Apis Arborea. He studies bees and trees and he's wonderful. And he always talks about how bees have an inhale and exhale as an organism. And often when they have an upper entrance, you'll see that the bees as a whole, not every single bee, but some of them are like the majority of the bees will choose one place where they're entering. And one place where they're exiting the hive, which I've seen in some of those styles where you have an upper and a lower entrance. It's very cool.
Nicole: Yup. It is. And I actually have a podcast scheduled with him coming up too. So I'm pretty excited to talk to him.
Ariella: Give him my love.
Nicole: I will. So now that I'm distracted on talking about that we talked beforehand and you mentioned that you felt that natural beekeeping was one way that we can help support and save the bees.
Ariella: Certainly. Yeah. You'll hear some natural beekeepers say the bees know best. I agree. We have so much to learn from the bees. In fact, there's a really wonderful international movement that centralizes around a conference. This is the second year that's been a run called learning from the bees and it's all about what we can learn from the bees as opposed to what we can get from the bees. And in my mind, natural beekeeping, it asks a lot of questions. It asks everything about the biology of the organism, the temperament of the organism, how the organism lives in the wild and how the organism responds to things like medicides or sugar feeding or pollen patties.
Ariella: It's just a real interest or query into ways to keep bees that aren't conventional in the sense that they aren't necessarily just for big Ag or mechanized beekeeping. Again, there's a place for everything and I understand that there's a place for pollinators to go to the peach groves and the Apple groves, but our system is out of balance and the honeybees are letting us know. So natural beekeeping starts to ask the question how, again, as I've said multiple times on this call already, how are the bees in the wild doing it? And what can we remember? What can we learn? Humans have been in relationship with bees for I think we've been beekeeping like 10000 years or something crazy. Who knows my numbers but it's a big number. We have records of people keeping bees in ancient Egypt. And that was the beginning of keeping bees prior to that there was of course honey hunting.
Ariella: We've evolved as a species with bees and now the bees are telling us as a species that something isn't right, that things are out of balance. And we've identified a lot of what those things out of balance are. Habitat loss, use of pesticides, the invasive mite species, and quite literally how we keep bees. Things like moving bees all over the country on trucks all the time, the spread of disease through that, the stress on the organism. We've learned so much about what stress does to the human organism. Look at what it might be doing to the honeybee is an organism, selective breeding, breeding out traits that aren't convenient for the beekeeper but are needed for the bees such as propolising, which is the way that bees use tree resins and turn them into a glue that's very intimate, Caribbean, antifungal, antibacterial, and is part of their immune system.
Ariella: To me, natural beekeeping is giving the bees first say over perhaps a more human centric agenda. And in that way, I think that if we follow the lead of the bees and try to be partners in living with them, we can start to learn how to save them.
Nicole: Absolutely. I think that I always call myself more of an apartment manager than a beekeeper because to me, I'm there to support the bees and I'm not, this big commercial honey producers. So I'm not concerned with getting tons of honey and I'm just thankful for whatever they have to share. But I think that just like with poultry there's a demand for eggs. So of course you have hens and battery cages in big farms. And stuff, but that's not necessarily the best life for the chickens. And so us as backyard or small scale beekeepers keeping a healthier way of keeping bees, having better quality honey as a result and being there to support the bees instead of being concerned about the output, being the honey at the end of the year definitely has multiple benefits.
Ariella: I completely agree. I've heard some conventional beekeepers say that backyard beekeepers are going to be the downfall of bees and I actually think it's quite the opposite. We're all looking for ways to reconnect with the earth and first maybe it was chickens in the backyard in the middle of urban developments and finding ways to live with your little herb garden and whatnot. And now bees and there's no reason why bees can't be a part of life again for an everyday person. I think backyard beekeepers are part of what might save the bees.
Nicole: My personal thought is, it's similar to what's going on with humans right now with the masons and stuff like that. If we keep treating bees for mite resistance instead of letting them evolve or figure it out on their own, then we're going to end up with, maybe no bees because they aren't able to maintain a natural resistance just like we're damaging the human population by giving antibiotics for everything. And now we have strains of bacteria that are really hurting people and there's a lack of immunity for these things.
Ariella: I completely agree. I've made the same correlation myself, the fact is it has been proven that bees have adapted in the wild read Tom Seeley's work if you haven't already, everyone go read Darwinian Beekeeping. Just look it up. It's an article by Tom Sealy. It's in the Natural Beekeeping Trust website or on that website and it talks about exactly what you just said with... When we breed for, when you try to breed out mites, we actually ended up breeding for stronger mites that are resistant and that has been happening. So in terms of natural beekeeping saving things, it's not just natural beekeeping but ethically looking at treatment free beekeeping ways to breed what we would call survivor's stock, which is really like "the mutts of bees," you don't want a specific pure line of a very specific type of bee that has a very specific trait, like really nice bees that don't sting very often but make lots of honey.
Ariella: We need drones that are allowed to mate freely and we need to allow for drones to be raised in hives and not called so that there can be genetic strengths and genetic diversity. And we need to allow the queens to mate and in my opinion, we need to allow bees to swarm.
Nicole: Yup. I used to be more aggressive about my swarm management and now I do my own splits and stuff to try to maintain my own... But when I do splits, I let them raise their own queen, send the virgins out to mate. So that I have, I always called them mutts too, but mutts that are also locally adapted to my area. And I figure if they're poorly mated or if they don't build up well enough towards winter and they do end up dying out, well then that was a genetic strain of bees that I don't want to have anyways, so I don't take any overly aggressive methods to try to help them. I let them sort their own problems out.
Ariella: Yes, that's precisely the point Tom Sealy makes in Darwinian Beekeeping. I would highly recommend reading that article, but it seems like you've intuitively gone there already.
Nicole: I actually haven't read that article, but I wrote it down so I can check it out and then I'll put the link for it also in the description for other people to find it as well. So changing subjects here. One thing that I found when looking through your website is that you also talk about bee folklore. Can you expand up on that a little bit?
Ariella: Sure thing. Short answer is I'm a huge history nerd. Also, I've really been fascinated my entire teen through adult life in both myth and folklore and in the spiritual traditions of... For me, predominantly my ancestors who... European based folk from a pre-Christian era. So looking at the Celtic culture and their relationship to bees, looking at the Greek history and myth around bees. And of course that takes me in all sorts of directions to places like Sumeria and ancient Egypt, the Minoan culture, German culture, Scandinavian culture, everywhere you look in that region of the world like the earth. And yes, there are other beekeeping traditions and folklore in other parts of the world, like the Aztecs had stuff going on India of course. But for me, my chief area of interest is based on ancestral... following the ancestral threads. I think that doing that work around understanding ancestry and heritage is important work as a white settler in the United States. So I do that.
Ariella: I look into bees and I hunt down myths and stories. And what you find is a really beautiful tapestry of folk beliefs around honeybees and some very consistent similarities in those beliefs. Some of them being things like honey bees are seen in some cultures as emissaries or messengers that can go between this world and the world of the gods or this world and the other world to use a Celtic word. They've been seen as souls leaving the body or the beings that carry the souls to the afterlife and also the soul is coming back in. In Celtic tradition as well as more recently up into the 1800s there's records of this in England and Britain bees were so precious and so important that first of all in the Celtic bran laws, which were the druidic laws, there were a number of different rules around bees and beekeeping and swarms as exchange and their importance.
Ariella: More recently we have records of the tradition telling the bees, which is one of my favorite ones to talk about. And that includes understanding that for many people, and this as well under the Christian era, bees were seen as part of the family and they were so important that if any major thing happened in the family's life, such as a death, a marriage, a birth, or a longterm visitor, or someone traveling from far away, it was the bee master or be mistress' duty to go to the hive and typically, or traditionally, knock on the hive, sometimes even using a key and a whisper to the hive, the news. There's a lot of other practices around telling the bees, but that in itself is very sweet and folkloric, but has spiritual roots around hive being the place of the gods and spiritual wisdom and those who can go between the worlds. So that passed down into a wonderful folk tradition that we can still do today.
Nicole: I've always heard of the telling of the bees for when the beekeeper passes. I hadn't heard that there was more to it than that, so that's interesting.
Ariella: Yeah, there's a lot more. There's things like bringing them candy on Christmas morning. Yeah, there's turning the hive when the master dies. There's a lot of different little traditions. It's fun to look into. Yeah.
Nicole: Which one would you say is your favorite?
Ariella: I am such a hopeful romantic, so I really like the one where when a couple gets married, first I believe it is that the bride has to go to each hive and tell each hive that she's going to get married. Then they would decorate the hives with red and white ribbons for the wedding. And then after the wedding they would bring back part of the wedding feast and the newlywed couple would go from hive to hive introducing themselves. I just love that.
Nicole: That's adorable.
Ariella: I know, but it signifies the importance of bees and the idea was that if you didn't, the bees would leave. That's where that comes from.
Nicole: I love that. And what group of people practice that one.
Ariella: This is mostly a British tradition.
Nicole: How interesting. And then you also had on your website bee dreamwork. And that is one that I had not heard of before.
Ariella: Certainly, again, this is connected to the idea that bees can go between the worlds and in earth-based traditions, Shamanic cultures. And what I mean by that is cultures that believe that everything is animate, that there's spirit in everything in the tree in the flower in the cosmos and the bees and that there's a conversation and a dialogue happening between human and the spirit world through the animate world. In this way bees were seen as those who could go between. And the dream world is one of those places where messages could be received and shared and understood. And that the bees were part of a web or a network of connection between the cosmos and the earth because they fly in the air and they are beings of the sun that live in the dark. And there's a lot more that I can go into on that, but it's too much for a podcast at the moment.
Ariella: Within the bee tradition that I'm connected to called the Lyceum or formerly the path of pollen, there are dream practices deeply connected to actively dreaming with bees and with different symbols of the bees and I know teach a body of work around dreaming with bees as what you would call dream allies or dream guides. And then working with different symbols that connect to that
Nicole: And these classes. Are they something that are available online? Because I think that this sounds really interesting and something that I know I'd like to learn more about.
Ariella: Certainly. Yeah. The classes that I teach, I have two online classes. One is called Dreaming With Bees for women only and that's very particularly connected to what we would call wound work. Bees are strongly connected to the womb and a lot of ancient cultures, ancient European cultures. So it's connected to the womb. And I say that I'm really recognizing that some people have had surgeries, some people have gone through... Looking at the womb as a spiritual center, regardless of the current standing physically in terms of what's going on with that part of your body. But using it or looking at it or working with it as an intuitive center connected to the bee as a very strong feminine symbol. I also do a dream class called Betwixt and Between for men and women that's a little bit different, but following some of the same dreaming techniques. And then occasionally I do workshops, live workshops, like I'll have one here in Northern California at the beginning of November.
Nicole: Awesome. And expanding on what you were just talking about with the bee being the symbol of women and such, you have an emphasis specifically on women in beekeeping.
Ariella: Yes. I'll tell you what, when I put together my handle beekeepingintheskirts, I didn't know that things would evolve the way they have. It was just that I happened to keep bees in skirts. And in the tradition that I'm a part of the women's tradition or the bee tradition that I'm a part of, there's a lot of emphasis on skirts to a degree because it's a way of women being open to the earth and the earth being that place of nourishment and sort of that original create tricks and womb of our life and creator of our life. And so I started keeping bees in skirts. I was never one who was too comfortable in pants. I've adapted them better at it now that doesn't mean that if you like pants, you're not feminine. That's not what I'm saying at all. I just happened to be someone who liked to keep these in skirts.
Ariella: But with that, I just started to ask a lot of questions around the history of beekeeping, the folklore around beekeeping, the spiritual traditions connected to bees and realized that there's a real place for the feminine voice in not just bees beekeeping in. The more I got involved, the more I realized that that voice needed to be heard. I have met so many incredible women doing incredible work with bees, but still their voices aren't part of the mainstream. And I think that there's a place, not just for women of all kinds and all orientations but also for the voice of the feminine to come through.
Ariella: I don't want to be too polarizing, but when I talk about the voice of the feminine, what I mean and beekeeping in particular is that intuitive quality, maybe a bit of a softer touch, some gentleness, bringing in some to beekeeping that doesn't exclude men. There are many men out there who have an integration of what I would call the feminine and who are bringing that into their work with bees. But just that there is a place and a need for both the feminine voice and for more women to be doing this work. It's another area like so many that has been dominated by men in terms of who's out there making rules about bees and writing books about bees and that sort of thing. So now there are more and more women showing up in the field and I want to hear their voices and I want to be one of those voices and I want to advocate for that.
Ariella: I guess anecdotally I'll share the very first swarm I caught was with my mother. I had just come out of the hospital I had just had a miscarriage. I was very weak and I got this call and there was a swarm and an Apple tree and I was with my mother and two little girls on the property and one of them said something about is the queen under there? And my mom said, "yeah, she's under there, she's under all the bees," and they said, this little girl said, "because they're protecting her because she's the mother," and my mum said, "yeah, they're protecting her,". She said, "well because it's important everyone should protect the mother,". I'm like, well there it is, that's it. I will be an advocate for those little girls. And for the women out there who are finding and using their voice, I think bees are just such a powerful metaphor for the wild feminine and the voice of the feminine with both honey and sting.
Nicole: What do you think is some of the biggest challenges that women are facing?
Ariella: In beekeeping or in general? I'll talk particularly to beekeeping right now. In general there's a lot. So right now we live in a time when we can and do get to exercise our voice more than perhaps the generations before us. While I recognize a long time ago, we lived in more egalitarian societies. We haven't for quite a time and we are really not that far from historically. These are brown women that made us into of course objects that's still going on, but what would you call it? Property for instance taking away rights, that sort of thing. So as we look at where we're at right now, it hasn't been that long that women have been able to really have a voice and have claimed that space or carving out that space.
Ariella: That is just as apparent in beekeeping. So one of the biggest challenges I experienced and a lot of my students experience and write to me about is being laughed at, demeaned, yelled at aggressively by men in the field but not all men. It's just... Sure other women in the field too. But this particular quality of patronizing and shaming that can happen and sort of belittling, that's an area that I think a lot of women are really struggling with because just gets so political, but I think in bee keeping that's one of the biggest challenges and what I've also found is that a lot of women are really attracted to natural beekeeping, which means that they're going to be on the receiving end of some very angry conventional beekeepers who happen to mostly be male. These are big generalizations and I'm not interested in polarizing. But as we shift into natural beekeeping, that's where you're going to be finding a lot more females and a lot more women and people non-binary folks doing work for the bees. And that can be really threatening to the old guard.
Nicole: And I guess and I really thought of it until now, but if you think about, especially when it comes to like the big commercial operations, not that I know about all of them, but they're pretty much predominantly run or operated by men, and there's really not a whole lot of female beekeepers, especially on the larger scale. I think there's a fair number of backyard beekeepers and that number seems to continue to grow as the trend rises. But I would say that traditionally it's definitely male dominated activity.
Ariella: Yeah. In terms of big AG and big economy, I would agree. Just look for any article on beekeeping in the mainstream and it's going to be an interview with a guy or a male scientist. That being said, one of my sources for warre hives said to me once that 70% of his client base for warre hives are women.
Ariella: So yeah, you're right. Backyard beekeepers are where it's happening and it just means a new conversation and a different conversation. And I think that natural urge to mother things, whether or not you ever become a mother or are one, that's stewardship. It's a very intuitive thing for a lot of women and men too. But that's perhaps why so many women are interested in other ways to keep bees that might bend one's ear a little bit lower to the ground.
Nicole: Yeah, I think that sounds spot on. I know I don't personally have any children of my own and so I told my husband I have bees and chickens and these are my children.
Nicole: Yeah. I think that's some really great points and I know that I've seen online those challenges with not only people being less than polite but also physically, women having challenges with manipulating the hive equipment, especially when it starts to weigh 50, 60, 100 pounds, and I think that there's definitely a shift that's starting to happen.
Ariella: Yeah. My mom's a beekeeper because of me and she just got her first top bar hive after a couple of years of warre hives and she loves them because she can actually get into the hive and really, she can keep them in a much easier way with less challenges and she can do it by herself. And it's true, working... Not having to lift 100 pound boxes makes a difference. That's truly physically one of the draws to top bar beekeeping.
Nicole: And then of course not just for women, but those that might be elderly or have some other physical limitations too. You could even potentially use a top bar if you're in a wheelchair too. I mean, there's definitely some advantages to that.
Ariella: It's about inclusiveness. And I think that the way we've been keeping bees hasn't really been including bees or women or really, it's just been a very small demographic that's been part of the beekeeping narrative. And that's changing. And that is challenging the old story and it's challenging people who are defenders of the old story, but the old story isn't working. And so just like every other area of systemic change that's needed, whether it's healthcare or climate change or... There's a new narrative coming through and it's involving voices that may have been pushed to the side for a very long time.
Nicole: And thanks goodness for the internet, for giving us all an equal outlet. So for those that might, be interested in learning more about your style with beekeeping or maybe the bee folklore and a dreamwork. How can people find you?
Ariella: You can find me on Instagram @beekeepinginskirts and on my website, which is honeybeewild.com as in honey B-E-E wild.com. And if you're interested in some of the things I've referenced, there's a resources page on there where I have a bunch of different books and websites that I really like. So I love to send people in that direction. As far as my classes, I'll be offering some natural beekeeping teleconference style. Actually there'll be video style classes for people coming up in the fall and the winter. So that will be showing up. And then my dream classes are available more or less quarterly. So there you go.
Nicole: And I saw you also had a special retreat in France coming up?
Ariella: Yeah. The 2020 France retreat for women will be in September. Dates to be confirmed soon. So keep an eye out for that. And there's some other fun things in the works, but I can't talk about it yet. Other retreats and other international locations. Let's just put it like that.
Nicole: Awesome. Well I'm excited to watch your Instagram and see what you have to announce.
Ariella: Yeah. Well thank you so much. It's wonderful to talk to another beekeeper and someone who cares so much for the earth and how we relate to the animals and the plants.
Nicole: Absolutely. And I really appreciate you taking the time to share your knowledge and your take on beekeeping. I think being exposed to multiple ideas makes us more well rounded beekeepers.
Ariella: Absolutely. I say to all my students, go research the other side and understand it and make your own opinions. Don't just space them all on mine. Thank you for including me in the conversation and to those of you listening, thank you as well for your interest in bees. They need us.
Nicole: They do. And thank you for listening to another episode of Backyard Bounty and we'll see you again next week.
Announcer: Thank you for listening to Backyard Bounty, a podcast by heritageacresmarket.com. Don't forget to subscribe and leave us a review. If you have a question you'd like us to answer on the show, please email us at, [email protected] also find us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube @ Heritage Acres Market. All the links mentioned in this podcast will be included in the description. See you again next week.
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