“So, where does all our donation money go to?”
Besides providing pro bono, donation-based feral bee rescues for residents throughout Texas, our focus–and money–goes towards innovative and forward-thinking projects. Each of these initiatives vary in their goals, yet they all have one thing in mind: integrating bees into urban environments.
Primarily because our friends, the honeybees, have been undergoing a great decline in population over the last several years. By integrating bees into urban settings that people also thrive in, a healthy and cooperative relationship can be formed that is based on the mutual benefits that each one offers the other. In this way, we get to promote the inclusion of honeybees into our daily environments and show others how essential they are to us.
“What projects are you working on and how will they help?”
Currently we have a few main focus areas that are outlined below and are based on the integration of bees within the environments of schools, businesses, and correctional complexes. Each focus area is then subdivided into specific projects. Really want to explore how we’re helping? Take a look!
Educating people about bees is something we do daily, but one of the reasons we love getting out of bed in the morning is because of the opportunities we have to teach children in schools all across Central Texas. Always full of energy and ever curious, teaching children the art of good beekeeping is fun for all involved.
Since 2012, we have provided beekeeping courses to children ranging in age from elementary school to high school. Currently, we have hives at Lanier High School, Austin Achieve Public School, and the Austin Montessori School.
We believe in bringing experiential learning back to the school environment, where students can learn hands-on knowledge about honey bees in a safe and monitored setting. The students learn everything from setting bee hives and checking for queen and swarm cells to supplementing the hives with homemade herbal remedies. Additionally, they learn to utilize the byproducts of their hives to craft their own unique lip balm. Through our courses, we offer the ability for students to greater understand bees role in the ecosystem, what services honey bees offer to the world, and what humans can do to help, and hurt, honey bees.
Too often, children are imparted with a visceral aversion to bees due to associating them with pain. We feel this fear response is from a misunderstanding of the (usually) docile nature of bees. A fearful approach to bees can lead to unnecessary exterminations and, ironically, more stings, since bees get increasingly more aggressive as they sense fear pheromones. Throughout our course, students will learn to respect bees, and not fear them. That distinction can help bring about a paradigm shift as to how future generations will look upon the honey bee species and, hopefully, save bees in the future!
At one of our schools–Lanier High School–we have raised over $4,000 for one of our aspiring beekeepers, Tram Le. That money–raised through honey and lip balm sales at Le Bees–will help pay her college tuition.
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Schools We Teach
Here at AHBPA, one of our primary focus areas is to bridge the gap between people and nature, humans and honeybees. Businesses growing out of our cold corporatocracy normally offer little in the way of bringing us back to those roots and mending this growing gap. In order to reverse this trend, we have been partnering with businesses across the area to show just how beneficial nature can be to them.
In addition to installing and managing apiaries on the rooftops of businesses, we also provide full-scale vertical growing panels that support the hives and grow delicious food for the residents. This is a sweet deal that is great for the bees, great for the crops, and great for the business that gets to harvest the food and honey above! (We like to call this a natural symbiosis.)
At the Omni Colonnade in San Antonio, we installed 10 bee hives for our first San Antonio pilot rooftop apiary program. Additionally, we have added a Vertical Growing System on the roof which emphasizes sustainable green practices predicated on efficient water usage and maximized herb and vegetable produce.
Omni Colonnade Executive Sous Chef, Samuel Boisjoly, will be incorporating not only the vegetables and herbs grown on the roof, but also will utilize the honey harvested from the hives for cooking and marinating.
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In support of our bee relocation efforts, the Circuit of the Americas has donated 5 acres of unused land due west of their race track for permanent bee placement. Not only do we have an abundance of bees, but have also discussed future plans for incorporating an organic garden and, possibly, some other live animals (like goats) for cheese making.
The Omni Barton Creek Resort was the first of the Omni hotels to show interest in having bees permanently placed on their property. Surrounded by lush gardens, the 4,000-acre Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa is 20 minutes’ drive from downtown Austin, and, lucky for us, perfect for bees! With the ample amount of flowing water and blossoming flowers, the hives at the Resort are performing exceptionally well.
We make sure to maintenance the hives every 7-10 days to ensure that no swarms occur, nor any issues with the golfers at the course occur. So far, so good!
Additionally, the executive chef will be using our honey in their kitchen. We have discussed feeding the bees different fruit cocktails to influence the honey outcome, in addition to the natural foraging the bees perform on a daily basis (and which we emphasize more than any other form of nutrition).
Part of AHBPA’s goal is to integrate bees into an urban setting to assist with pollination in areas that are greatly under serviced. We want to keep cities as gorgeous, and flowery, as the rural settings we place bees in.
Hence, when GSD&M–the leading advertising agency in the south west–stated their interest in having a rooftop apiary, we leapt at the opportunity. Located smack dab in the heart of downtown Austin, off 6th and just east of Lamar, we have ten bee hives installed on their three story building. Similarly to the Omni Colonnade in San Antonio, we have a vertical growing system and will be growing vegetables and herbs–all of which will be donated to charity.
We are attempting to bring back the discontinued merit badge of Beekeeping to the Boy Scouts of America. The badge was discontinued in 1995, however, contrary to what one might initially think, it was not discontinued due to a deadly sting or fatality. The badge’s death knell was more unassuming: a lack of interest amongst the boy scouts. For instance, during the last year of the beekeeping merit badge’s existence, in the state of Utah, only 60 merit badges were awarded.
Yet, as Colony Collapse Disorder becomes more understood and widely recognized, the interest in bees is beginning to pique the interest of individuals of all ages, including boy scouts.
On the 400 acres on the Northern Shore of Lake Bastrop, called the Lost Pines Boy Scout Camp, we are going to place 100 bee hives. On that property, we are going to be doing bee keeping courses and interactive educational outreach.
Correctional Complex Apiaries
Travis County Correctional Complex
AHBPA received approval in July of 2014 to not only install ten beehives at the Travis County Correctional Complex, but we also have been granted the incredible opportunity to teach our master beekeeping certification course to nonviolent criminal offenders, who are seeking a change in their life. This is the first ever inmate beekeeping pilot program in the country, and has attained a lot of media attention due to its novelty.
Our first session was with the male population. We successfully graduated four inmates, two of which are working full time for us now. Our second course was with the female population. Thought that course did not yield any graduates or full time employees, many of the students reported that working with the bees provided them an ease of mind while behind bars.
Our goal is to provide vocational training for wayward individuals who have nothing but time on their hands while in jail. Long term, we feel that this will give these inmates a better prospect of obtaining a job after he or she gets released. If an inmate successfully completes our master beekeeping course, he or she can find a job with our nonprofit organization working with bees. Furthermore, a job will entail that each respective inmate has a steady income as he or she adjusts to life outside the jail; thus, our program will lower recidivism rates in Texas, which will lower the tax burden on the rest of the state’s residents.
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In addition to reactive bee rescue measures, we also provide proactive bee preventative abatement.
Honey bees, especially during summertime, can become quite a nuisance to customers when the bees food source is low (i.e. the flowers in Texas start to die off).
The bees, in pursuit of sustenance, are allured by the sweet, sugary scent that drinks, such as soda, exude.
In order to counter this, we utilize different techniques and materials to mask the scent of the sugar and keep areas bee-free.
For those interested in bee abatement, please call our founder, Walter Schumacher, regarding ways in which we can maintain the premises without resorting to lethal measures for the honey bees.