Women band together to help distressed honeybees

08/01/2014 10:00 AM |
Hippy Hive HoneyBee Cooperative member Sarah Shepherd (center), who has been keeping bees for about five years, takes a good look at what is happening inside a hive, explaining to other members what's happening. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Hippy Hive HoneyBee Cooperative member Sarah Shepherd (center), who has been keeping bees for about five years, takes a good look at what is happening inside a hive, explaining to other members what’s happening. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

A group of women concerned about the plight of the honeybee has launched a grassroots effort to bring more bees to the area and educate locals about how to support the bee population.

They have formed the Hippy Hive HoneyBee Cooperative, a group open only to women and led by a trio of North Fork residents who are involved in spirituality, health and nature. The initiative’s members range in age from 36 to 70; some of them have experience with bees, but others had never set foot near a hive before joining.

The group now has 15 members and organizers say community interest in their effort is flourishing, leading them to explore ways to expand Hippy Hive HoneyBee Cooperative and the possibility of seeking nonprofit status.

The idea for the cooperative arose in March after participants in a women’s spirituality circle in Greenport watched a documentary called “Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us?” The film addressed the inexplicable disappearance of bees — a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder — and their vital role as pollinators in securing the nation’s food supply.

More than three-quarters of the world’s flowering plants rely on pollinators like bees to reproduce, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This means the tiny yellow insects help produce one out of every three bites of food.

After watching the film, circle member Diane Gunder, of River Rain Renewal Wellness in Greenport, recalled saying, “We have to do something.” Until then, she said, she’d been unaware of the bee population’s struggles.

The documentary motivated her, along with circle members Sarah Shepherd, an herbalist from Shelter Island who has kept bees for about five years, and Susanmerrie Hellerer, a beekeeper-in-training, to start the cooperative.

Ms. Gunder then reached out to Maggie Wood of Golden Earthworm Organic Farm in Riverhead, who offered space there for the group’s hives.

“Anything we can do to allow beekeepers to bring in the bees is of great interest to us,” Ms. Wood said. She and her husband, Matthew Kurek, had tried beekeeping in the past, but with all the other work at their Peconic Bay Boulevard farm, that effort fell by the wayside.

Each of the original cooperative members contributed toward building the hives, which cost about $1,000 apiece, and importing queen bees and worker bees.

The group now has three hives and is working to get another. 

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