This wouldn’t be possible without you

This wouldn’t be possible without you

It’s been a year since this website was created with the hope of providing a bit of bee knowledge in exchange for reader support. On countless occasions Bee Free Apiaries’ website content has spared me as well as listeners, the endless chat on the life of honey bees, how they go about the fabrication of honey, wax, propolis, and pollen as well as the benefits to both nature and human they provide. Don’t get me wrong, I can talk about bees with enthusiasm any hour of the day, but I understand that it’s not always easy to retain all the interesting information at once. 


Thanks to the borderless world of the internet, people have contacted me from places like Sweeden, Georgia and India with questions and inquiries about bees, all of which I have been happy to respond and inform. With the minimum publicity work I have done, there are 15 friends, family and strangers following every update to the website, as well as the community of Facebook readers who are nice enough to entertain themselves for a moment with the happenings of our ever developing work.

Kololo Beekeepers Meeting

Kololo Beekeepers Meeting

Getting any project up and running is difficult on its own, and the maintence and continuation, I am realizing, even more. After a successful 6 weeks in Ethiopia in the spring of 2013 meetings with community beekeeper groups across 3 communities in the Kembata-Tembaro Region  southwest of the Addis-Ababa Capital couldn’t have been more successful. I left with the hopeful sensation of returning the coming fall. When that fell through, and I failed to receive financial support through preexisting organizations,  I’ve focused on settling here in Madrid, and as time has gone on, I find myself slipping away from the project I have been working towards for the past 5 years.

Worker B, Studio 272, Northrup King Building, Minneapolis, MN

Worker B, Studio 272, Northrup King Building, Minneapolis, MN

But last Thursday, late at night, I received an email from Paypal notifying me of a very generous donation from a friend of mine in my hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Having set up a bee related enterprise of his own, Micheal Sedlack from Worker B knows what it takes to turn a dream into reality. Dedicated to the fabrication and use of bee products for skin care and general health, Worker B offers a variety of handmade products made from all natural ingredients. For all those in Minneapolis, A visit to the Northrup King Arts Building in Northeast always makes for an entertaining visit and Room 272 on the second floor even more so.  Worker B also specializes in providing and selling a variety of local, national and even international honeys all available for sampling that help curious visitors better understand the diversity of honey. It’s an awesome space with amazing products, so check them out!

Though it’s still uncertain on where and how the rest of the support will be generated and materialized, when there’s a will there’s a way and I couldn’t be more thankful for the support I already have.

Worker B, All Natural Handmade Skin Care.  Studio 272, Northrup King Building, Minneapolis, MN

Worker B, All Natural Handmade Skin Care. Studio 272, Northrup King Building, Minneapolis, MN

So a huge thanks to Micheal, and another big thanks to all my readers. This project wouldn’t be possible without you! Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more info on our revitalized Kembata-Tembaro Beekeepers education program, as well as new ways to show your support.

Reap what you Sow

Reap what you Sow

“Paciencia es la madre de ciencia”,

It’s is a wonderful Spanish phrase translating to

“Patience is the mother of science”

I was reminded of this phrase this past weekend as we tended to the hives, 35 kilometers southwest of Spain’s capital, Madrid. We envisioned ourselves harvesting what we could from the seasons honey but were excited to see that our plans would have to be delayed. The bees seem to be loving the changing of the season and there non stop pursuit for the life giving nectar shows in the reflective glitter of the heavy combs that line their hive. We as beekeepers do nothing more than give them more space to continue doing what they are already doing.

Happy Hives

Happy Hives

The summer, like most here in Madrid has been hot, temperatures reached the high 90’s on a daily basis, and the majority of the bees had no choice but to stay close to the hive in order to help with the ventilation. In order to do so and keep the temperature of the hive at no more than 90 degrees Fahrenheit or 35 degrees Celsius, they flap their wings at rapidly fast speeds functioning as a natural air conditioning system. Its a constant balancing act, as the population grows and the hives heats up from both the inside and outside the bees most stay in constant communication

As the seasons begin to change, the nights begin to get cooler and the sun gives us all a bit more breathing room, the bees begin to take advantage in their foraging.Their hard work of temperature management of the summer is now being rewarded with the abundance of nectar in the area. And we are happy to see that the region’s fauna offers much to choose from.  The days continue to be in the 80’s it also seams that the bees as well as the us as the beekeepers have plenty of time to make the necessary arrangements to get through winter.

Ventilation takes place in the hive as well as in front of the entrance in order to pull the hot air out.

Ventilation takes place in the hive as well as in front of the entrance in order to pull the hot air out.

What I enjoy most about this relationship with nature is the opportunity I am offered to reflect upon the events in my own life. Hard work and determination do pay off, and with patience and intention I will reach my goals. As the beehives demonstrate its not always at the time you may have imagined, but that doesn’t mean that the fruits wont come.


Recently stretched wax cells prepped for nectar storage

 My hopes of the getting back to Ethiopia this September to continue the partnership with my brothers work through Ethiopia Reads and community beekeepers is know pushed back to the coming spring.

My return back to Madrid has brought some unimagined changes, and as I begin to fall into a but of a routine, with a new Montessori English teaching job, a new apartment and an invigorating daily commute by bicycle through this swarming city, I find myself enjoying this new structure to build off of.


Propolis harvest underway

I am hoping to rework the programing designed last spring to make a larger impact within a shorter period of time by expanding upon the family education aspect,  find new partnerships through new organizations and individuals, as well as continue the collaboration with the Holetta Bee Research Center in Ethiopia.

 So what all comes down to now, for both the bees and everyone else, is a bit of consistency. Day to day, and then week by week we’ll make the necessary preparations to successfully pass through fall into winter. And with the passing of the months, and a season of rest and hibernation we will return in the spring with even more health and vigor than the year before.

Thank you for calling me a Beekeeper; Kololo, Ethiopia

Thank you for calling me a Beekeeper; Kololo, Ethiopia

So we’ve been back in Addis since Tuesday, and I can’t help but do circles in my mind about the future possibilities of collaborating with beekeepers in the Kembata-Tembaro region of Southern Ethiopia this coming fall.

Our week spent in the south not only introduced me to the communities of people collaborating in the construction of schools led by my brother Cien,  but introduced me to the existing infrastructure of beekeeping in the area. Though I only have 2 years of beekeeping experience behind me, my university education as well as time spent studying and experiencing successful community development programs join together to provide me with the confidence in knowing that I am on the right track.

Kololo Beekeepers Meeting

Kololo Beekeepers Meeting

Part of our last day in the south was spent traveling to the small hillside village of Kololo. My brother spent almost 7 months in the village from 2011- 2012 constructing a hillside kindergarten school, so we took some time to visit the area, check on the progress of the newly installed school programs, as well as meet with area beekeepers. Due to its hillside location as well as proximity to spring water, the areas vegetation is even denser than that of Azedabo.

The family of Salamesh, one of my brother’s school construction team members, took it upon themselves to organize a meeting between myself and area beekeepers for a basic information session. As many of my readers know, my focus for making this trip to Ethiopia has been to gather the necessary information to bring a pilot program focused on enhancing the culture of beekeeping to better favor the health of the honeybee and consequentially the people as well as the communities that keep them. In simpler terms I am working at finding a way of continuing our exchange of beekeeping knowledge to better celebrate the richness the trade offers.

Beekeepers Trying on Protective Gear

Beekeepers Trying on Protective Gear

Though similar in some regards to the beekeeping meeting held in Azedabo three days earlier, the turnout of beekeepers in Kololo was much greater as well as more diverse.  To my satisfaction, women do in fact bee keep in the village, and are looked at as equals to the men. Old as well as young were present, and all were eager to hear what I had to share. From one translator to the next, I introduced myself and my beekeeping background and immediately began to pass around my protective beekeeping gear.

I shared with them my experience of harvesting honey the previous day, and stated how the trade could become so much more comfortable with very small changes. Had I not had a similar response during the previous meeting I would have been surprised, as the majority of beekeepers practice the trade as passed down from their elders and really have no idea of the logistical side of things. Basic concepts of protective gear, hygiene, as well as bee nutrition are non-existant. After drawing up and explaining a bit of the benefits of transitional top bar style bee hives as well as modern closed panel style hives, I could tell through their inquisitive stares as well as further questions that basic concepts were being understood. An elderly man even spoke out and thanked me for calling him a beekeeper, though the money he earned to send his children to school was made by the sale of his honey, no one had ever recognized him as such.  

Inquisitive Stares

Inquisitive Stares

We finished the meeting by asking the beekeepers of their interest of transitioning to transitional and or modern hives and received a unanimous response.  Though they repeatedly thanked me for taking the time to educate them in the most formal class on beekeeping they had ever received, I am certain I took away more from the encounter than they did.  So with just over 2 weeks left on Ethiopia I continue to work towards gathering all the necessary information to make my return this coming fall possible.  

Azedebo Beekeepers Meeting

Azedebo Beekeepers Meeting

Last Days in Fundame 028

Our Motorbike Apiary visits turned into a Friday morning community beekeepers meeting in Azedebo, Kembata-Tembaro, Ethiopia; thus we had the opportunity to exchange a bit more information with a handful of beekeepers in the area. Via my translator, Ashu, we began the meeting by thanking everyone for coming and joked how beekeepers are usually dependable for showing up on time, saying a lot especially being that we are in Africa. They chuckled and we rolled into the information session. I introduced myself as a beekeeper from Spain, who studied queen bee rearing and by using modern hives focuses on healthy beehives carrying forward strong health to humans. From English to Amharic, and then to tembarenyan the local language, it seemed as though the introduction got across smoothly as I received a few big smiles in return. Last Days in Fundame 043

They were clear to inform me that women do not practice beekeeping here, traditions are strong and the men even say that due to the physical aspect of the work, they cannot partake. (Though after opening a hive with a local beekeeper two days following our meeting, I can better understand why no one would want to physically partake in beekeeping.) So as it seemed I gained their respect I continued with my question. “How does beekeeping affect you and your family’s life socially and economically?”, I asked. With a quizzical look Marcos, the same beekeeper that would later invite me to his home for a honey harvest, began to tell me how community members, especially farmers, feel that bees’ work is part of nature and therefore money should not be made by them. Consumers constantly ask for cheaper honey prices, and after Marcos chatted with the others they collectively explained how in general farmers don’t realize the necessary pollination work that the bees provide for their crops nor does anyone understand the work that actually goes into beekeeping and honey harvesting.

Life in Azedebo 044

One kilo/ 2.2 pounds of raw honey, mashed up, wax honeycomb and all, is sold to a middle man at the market for 60 Ethiopian Bir. Traditional hives in the area typically provide 2 kilos/4.4 pounds of honey 3 times a year, which leads to 6 kilos/13.2 pounds of honey. One US dollar equals 18 Bir or one Euro equals 23 Bir, therefor according to this groups accounts a beekeeper in Azedebo makes 20 US dollars or 15.65 Euros, per hive per year.

When I stated how beekeepers using modern hives could harvest over 60 kilos or 150 pound a year they once again smiled and laughed. However I wasn’t there to sell them a modern hive, I’ve found out that it’s been done before, in 2002 in fact, by an organization by the name of World Vision.Long story short, According to the beekeepers the organization provided a select few beekeepers with the standard box style, framed comb beehive, very little education, and no withstanding infrastructure nor support. While a few have the wooden beehive, they lack the resources to carry forward with the method with confidence.

I finished the meeting by sending around a chunk of propolis. Upon their first whiffs I could see that the beekeepers recognized brown sticky bee resin but couldn’t place it. I told them a bit about the medicinal qualities of the product as well as my personal interest for harvesting the product in the future, and they all agreed that it was a worthwhile endevour. However, being that none of them had even seen protective face gear before, the beekeepers group in Azedebo also agreed that they had alot to learn in order to meet the full potential for beekeeping in the area.


Education and Collaboration


As my brother went away to Kenya, for a bit of ultimate frisbee playing and some well deserved beachside relaxing, I stayed back in Addis and spent the last week assimilating the best way I know how. Every day I walked a bigger circle around our humble little neighborhood, acquainted myself with the neighbors, explored the shops with all their curiously practical products and commuted by public transportation (continuously surprising myself to my success of arriving to the desired neighborhood, despite not always understanding what was being shouted out the vehicles sliding doors).

With only 10 days of ethiopian immersion behind me I’m feeling every day more prepared for all of which is yet to come.

My time this past week in Addis was also spent familiarizing myself with public education here in the city. I had the opportunity to visit Ethiopia Reads’ sponsored kindergarten -3 school located in a economically disadvantaged area of town where they focus on reaching out to children who otherwise would be filling the immediate economic needs of their family by working on the streets, rather than investing the time into their education. Though unidentifiable from the outside the kids filling the 4 room school, (3 classrooms and library), were filled with an excitement for learning that followed me back home.

So much so, when asked the following day to speak on the importance of working together to a colleagues class at a local college I put a speech together in the same way the Mercato school kids presented to me their favorite “teret, terets”, spoken word stories.

<img src="" alt="20130407-001435.jpg" class="alignnone si


For just under an hour I elaborated on the fact there are really only a few things that we actually do alone. If they brushed their teeth and made their bed in the morning I congratulated them on their independence, and then rolled into the manufacturing of a many’s favorite drink. From the preparation to cultivation of the barley used to make beer, the work is best done with team collaboration. Hand, animal or tractor the work is best achieved when divided and distributed amongst the people. Cooperation creates efficiency and over time saves literally a lot of back pain. The classes’ attention was maintained as I flowed into a example of the democracy demonstrated by honey bees in their decision making. When choosing a new home, the marvelous insects debate through their differences through a series of dances, and the community of 60,000 or so arrive at a common goal. Concluding that the shared decision of a group is always more powerful than the decision of even the wisest individual, the class finished by asking a multitude of bee related questions, all of which I did my best to explain.

So with the school visits behind me, and a head full of new Amharic phrases I am officially ready to get down to business. I’ve tasted more than a handful of tasty honeys since arriving but without knowing which flowers the honey making nectar comes from I am left with a wandering curiosity.

So this coming Monday we are hitting the road and heading south. My brother, ER staff members and I will be spending 10 days in the communities of the last school builds where we will be celebrating the completion of the construction as well as meeting with local beekeepers, agriculturalists, and health care workers as we asses the implementation of our pilot project this coming September.


Post 1 AM plane arrival, Spanish cheese and meat feast and 3 hours of sleep, I went Eucalyptus forest running with my brother,

Post 1 AM plane arrival, Spanish cheese and meat feast and 3 hours of sleep, I went Eucalyptus forest running with my brother,

post 1 am plane arrival, spanish cheese and meat feast and 3 hours of sleep, Eucalyptus forest running with my brother,

There is no word in the Amharic language for Surprise. For first impressions, for being the 14th largest populated country in the world, the capital city of Addis abeba, is greener than I could have ever expected. Eucalyptus, Mango, Banana, Pomegranate, Avocado, Pine and Hibiscus, only to name a few, all in the same spot. I am so excited to be here.

Help Bring Bee Free Apiaries To Ethiopia!

Help Bring Bee Free Apiaries To Ethiopia!


 The practice of beekeeping has intrinsic health benefits through providing a food source of great nutritional value, and furthermore beekeeping requires few inputs and capitalizes on a ready supply of pollen. In rural areas there is almost an unlimited source of pollen, and bees’ aid greatly in the natural cross pollination of local crops. The introduction of a BeeFree apiary  in the villages within the Kembata-Tembaro region in Southwest Ethiopia will demonstrate how beekeeping based on the principles of bee health and nutrition, will carry forward the same benefits to the communities involved.

Summary: Due to the physical demands of traditional beekeeping in Ethiopia, and women’s household responsibilities, the work is traditionally practiced by men.   The products of beekeeping are usually focused on the sale of honey for supplementary income. Introducing modern forms of beekeeping through the creation of therapeutic apiaries will allow for more women to take part in the practice as well as generate a higher yield of product.  In addition these new methodologies will improve the health of bees, and thus the flora they service. Beekeepers can then diversify their investment by using a large portion of their harvests for community health issues.  Integrating these practices into the community’s agriculture approach will have a much greater affect than merely increasing yields in bee products and crops.  If this program is managed effectively pollination will be increased, the community will have direct access to the nutritional and health benefits of honey, pollen, propolis and wax, jobs will be created for women, and the disabled, artisan work will be sourced to local wood and metal workers, and surplus honey and wax can be sold to local markets to generate a cash income for local women and their families. 

Our goals at Bee Free Apiaries encompass a holistic three phase approach.

1. Youth Engagement- Beginning with a week long education unit taking place in region’s school we engage community youth through our interactive hands on curriculum in the creation of a unique and personalized shadow puppet theater. Daily lessons and activities are  paralleled to the lessons of the stories main characters encompassing such themes as collaboration and teamwork. Our overall goal for this phase is for students to become animated and educated about the  the benefits of integrating beehives into their community.

Resources needed to implement phase one include international travel for Bee Free Teachers, in country transportation to and from project site, stipend for local assistant working 13 hours across 5 days aiding in day to day tasks including translation, 10 hours at 2 hours a day of classroom time, materials including projector, white screen, cardboard, cutters and paints. Costs estimated at 4,000 US

2. Apiary Preparation and construction of 25 Community Hives- Community land will be assessed and bee free apiary will be placed in close proximity to plants and trees providing the richest annual forage possible. The area should provide adequate shade by nearby trees and shrubs, and apiary placement will be located at safe distance from regular village livelihoods.

After initial placement of the BeeFree apiary our objectives for phase two
I.    Construction of closed roof work space for honey harvest and storage equipment  built by available local resources and placed in close proximity to apiary.

II. Working in collaboration with local artisans, our beehives, tools, and protective clothing are designed and built to fit the community’s needs. After fabrication, beehive pieces are brought to the community for assembly and then painted by community youth.

III. Depending on local population of bees, colonies will either be transferred from preexisting traditional beehives, or bought from local beekeepers association.

Resources needed to implement phase 2 include the material and labor of a closed roof work space,  25 bee hives and bee colonies, 12 sets of protective clothing and boots, 12 metal hive tools, 6 smokers, product harvesting materials, packaging containers, and 2 days of car rental including petrol costs for equipment transportation. Costs estimated at $4,000 US

3. Beekeeper Training and Beneficial Bee Product Use Education. In collaboration with local beekeeping association,  basic beekeeping principles are taught to participating community members and are provided with the tools and know-how to become healthy and happy beekeepers. Our goal in the Kembata-Tembora region of Ethiopia is to vitalize women with skills in Beekeeping as a way of addressing general health issues and rural poverty.  Health benefits of beehive products will be specifically addressed in affiliation with local health care practitioners in respect to traditional care practices.

Once community Apiary is set up and group of village members are educated, its time for nature to do its work.

Resources needed for phase three include time, transportation and lodging of local beekeeper for the duration of the week long unit, Bee Free teacher stipend for time and preparation of course curriculum, class materials of notebooks, writing utensils and beekeeper log books. Estimated cost for phase 3 $2,500 US

Estimated Total Cost for the 3 Phase Implementation Plan= $10,500

In order to make this project possible in the Kembata-Temboro region of Ethiopia we need your help in fulfilling the necessary resources. Whether it be moral or monetary, all assistance is appreciated!