Ridge Road Forest Bee Project

Of Bees in Trees and Knees:

So these hives on rooftops? Not an accident or an anomaly. Left to their own devices, honeybee colonies will choose to locate themselves at heights of 16’ to 20.’ There’s a joke among beekeepers, ask five questions, get six answers. Whenever I have a question about how best to care for the bees, the answer is always how they care for themselves. These brilliant beings have been thriving for 130 million years without our assistance. It has only been within the last century that “improvements” for their keeping for our convenience, economy and maximum production have proven disastrous for their health and ultimately for our own.


You know things are getting serious when shy, introverted you starts calling up your biggest bee heroes on the phone. “Hello, Dr. Seeley?” I’ve been a longtime fan of Dr. Tom Seeley at Cornell University for years. He’s the brilliant author of “Honeybee Democracy,” “The Wisdom of the Hive,” “Honeybee Ecology,” and “Following the Wild Bees.” I’d been reading Dr. Seeley’s studies on the feral colonies of honeybees that have been succeeding in the forests of upstate New York for years. Dr. Seeley patiently answered my questions, offered some suggestions for the project I was planning and promised to send an article he’d written that was about to go to print, “Darwinian Beekeeping.” Lemme tell ya, it is no small thing to get an email that reads “Here you go, Alice. I love what you are doing. Best, Tom.” We're talking major bees knees buckle and swoon. You can find his article and a veritable wealth of other pertinent and crucial information on our friends at Natural Beekeeping Trust’s site. https://www.naturalbeekeepingtrust.org/darwinian-beekeeping

In a nutshell, Dr. Seeley has compared how bees keep themselves versus how we keep them. There’s a whole world of difference. Thanks to the generous support of Judy Coggins, we’re exploring the bees’ version of better living on her 19-acre farm and forest located just inside the beltline. We’ve installed five honeybee colonies from separate strong lineages we’ve been working with for several years. The colonies are well distanced from each other; each hive perched at an elevation of 18’ against a tree. Permaculture designer and teacher, landscape architect and emeritus professor at NCSU, Will Hooker, and Lee Barnes, PhD in Environmental Science and Appalachian Dowsers president helped us locate the specific trees the colonies are residing in based on the earth’s energy lines. We’ll be introducing modifications to the hive bodies that better reflect the supportive conditions of a hollow tree cavity including insular capacity, beneficial micro-organisms, propolized brood nest envelope and nest size. We’ll be keeping careful track of things as we go along.

There’s more to this story. Perhaps you’ve seen the Save Ridge Road signs? or noticed the petition on Change.org floating around the Facebook sphere? We signed it. Ridge Road and the community that calls it home definitely need rescue from a hastily expedited spring-scheduled NCDOT improvement by way of an outdated cloverleaf intended for the off ramp to Ridge Road from the beltline. This would also condemn much of the forest this project occupies. There are far better solutions available. In our increasingly urban environment, functional green infrastructure and the ecological services it provides for all our benefit is invaluable and deserved of every consideration that will achieve its preservation. 

Save Ridge Road. Save the trees. Save the bees.