The Cincinnati, Ohio Zoo and Botanical Garden is considering selling honey made by their own honeybees. Staff and volunteers have kept honeybees on the zoo’s Bowyre Farm for two years, with the nonprofit zoo having at least 24 hives and over one million bees, as per Mark Fisher, the vice president of facilities, planning, and sustainability for the zoo, which is based in Avondale. “We have a 650-acre farm in Warren County, and we have a huge honeybee apiary up there,” Fisher said.
“We haven’t actually harvested the honey, except in small quantities for internal taste testing,” Fisher continued. “Maybe next fall we’ll have a significant amount, and we intend to sell it here in the zoo gift shop. It will be hundreds of pounds. It all depends on how the bees do this winter – how many survive. But we have enough of a base stock that we feel next fall will be our first big year of harvesting.”
If most the bees survive the winter, Bowyre Farm may experience a profitable harvest next fall. The goal is to inform patrons about the issues pollinators face and the ways people can help while the zoo distributes the product. Pollen Nation, a new group of beekeepers consisting of the zoo’s staff and volunteers, are hoping to promote pollinator awareness by connecting the community to nature.
“We’re not just beekeepers—we’re a group of people passionate about all aspects of a healthy ecological system…down to every little detail, including the honeybee,” says Melanie Evans, one of Pollen Nation’s founders. Pesticides, as Pollen Nation knows, are one of the dangers honeybees face, and they have become an issue in Ohio and other parts of the world. “That’s one of the reasons we do our farming organically,” Fisher said. “We do about 100 acres of organic farming on that property.”
Bowyre Farm’s new venture has the capacity to help boost the declining honeybee population while raising awareness of conservation. Honeybees pollinate one third of our crops, around $15 billion worth each year. Crops vary from berries and nuts to zucchinis, as per the USDA. With reduced bee populations, parasites, and loss of habitat, honeybees are at risk regarding colony collapse disorder (CCD). Informing the public on honeybees and the recruitment of new beekeepers can help our agricultural system and allow us to maintain bee populations. The more institutions continue to support honeybees and their habitats, the better off we will all be in the long run.
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