Bees: the sweetest gift to give

December 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

The holiday season is fast approaching, and as you are checking off your shopping list and composing your wish list, there is one item that might have been left off worth considering: honey bees.

And no, I’m not suggesting you start building a hive on the balcony of your apartment or sneak a hive in your parents’ backyard. What I’m suggesting is much bigger than that, a gift of charity. Oxfam Unwrapped allows users to purchase honey bees for rural farmers in impoverished nations.

Purchasing honey bees benefit the farmers in a largely holistic way: teaching them new skills to generate revenue for themselves.

“Oxfam’s specific projects involve teaching modern beekeeping management practices to rural farmers and helping them build improved beehives,”  Josh Silva, press officer for Oxfam, said in an e-mail to me.

“This gift helps rural farmers learn the latest beekeeping methods and harvest more honey from their hives,” Silva said. “More honey means more money for families in need-and that’s a sweeter deal for everyone.”

Purchasing honey bees for the rural farmer only costs $18.

In addition to honey bees, Oxfam offers many other charitable gifts available to purchase. This includes goats, pigs, tools, books, cows and manure. There are also bigger projects like planting a vegetable garden, helping restore a preschool, start a farmers’ market, or purchasing a school meal program for one student.

To see how purchasing honey bees affects the communities, watch this video from Oxfam about a neighborhood in rural Haiti where “farmers are learning better beekeeping with the promise that more honey means more money to spend on household necessities.”


In case you were thinking of buying me something for Christmas (which I’m totally sure you were planning on,) head on over to Oxfam Unwrapped and buy some rural farmers some honey bees in my honor.



A Phoenix backyard garden that totally rocks

November 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

Phoenix rock band member and owner of a rockstar garden, Dylan Kongos, looks at some plants in his backyard.

In a neighborhood a bit northeast of Phoenix lives Dylan Kongos. Dylan is not only a member of popular rock band Kongos, but he is also the owner of a large backyard garden which provides more than enough food for him, his family and friends.

Growing in his backyard are beets, lettuce, swiss chard, cabbage, lemon grass, pomegranates, bok choy, rapini, broccoli, lemons, oranges and grapefruit—just to name a few.

“Aside from the heat and lack of rain, Arizona is actually a great place to garden,” Dylan said.

And this is evidenced by the large quantity of produce that was sprouting from the ground during my visit.

Not to mention, besides the past couple days he spent grooming his garden for aesthetic purposes, Dylan hadn’t tended to it in approximately three weeks while he was on tour with his band in South Africa and the onions growing from the ground looked nothing less than perfect.

These onions, called i’itoi onions were of special interest to Dylan due to their ambiguous history and monetary value.

Dylan Kongos counts the number of i’itoi onions growing in this bunch in his garden. According to Dylan, i’itoi onions grow relatively easy and require minimum maintenance.

“Big farms are not growing them, so it’s cool to keep them alive,” Dylan said.

But perhaps the real ticket is that they are relatively easy to grow.

“They don’t require a ton of fertilizer and are super drought resistent,” Dylan said.

Not only are the onions relatively easy, but Dylan feels people generally assume gardening as a whole is more difficult than it is.

“A lot of people think it’s a lot more work than it is,” Dylan said. “And it is a lot of work during planting and preparing for different seasons. But once it’s planted, it’s not much work.”

But what about the lack of rain? To solve this problem, Dylan uses an automatic drip system in his garden.

“The lack of rain can actually have its benefits,” Dylan said. “We don’t have mildew or problems associated with humidity or too much water. You can control the amount of water your plants are getting.”

For the work that gardening takes, Dylan feels the rewards far outweigh the efforts.

“The quality of food is so much better,” Dylan said.

His brothers and fellow band members would agree.

“The only reason we keep in the band is because of his the tomatos,” Dylan’s brother Johnny Kongos said.

Dylan Kongos feels the richness of the composted soil used in his garden. All of the onions are growing in a mix of half natural dirt and half homemade compost.

Their brother Jesse Kongos echoed this sentiment.

“When you have an heirloom tomato, it’s like you’ve never had a tomato before,” Jesse said. “It’s like you don’t need to put salt on things because they taste better.”

Dylan also mentioned the financial benefit of growing your own food.

“We’ve eaten thousands of dollars of food, which has saved us then a lot on groceries,” Dylan said.

For anyone wanting to get into gardening, Dylan offers this tip: “Do in ground gardening,” Dylan said. “They heat from pots destroys the roots. If you have even a little space, do a raised bed garden or even better—in ground, because our soil is so good.”

Then perhaps you can have a garden that rocks as much as Dylan’s.

Dylan Kongos explains the benefits of this quick-growing lemongrass. He planted this lemongrass about nine months ago from a small pot.

Photos taken by PJ Szabo for A Bee Conversation.


Trying to bring beekeeping to ASU

November 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

beekeeping class asu facebook

Earlier this month, managing editor of Downtown Devil Daniel Zayas and I started the process of encouraging ASU to endorse a beekeeping course in an urban setting. By “started” I mean we created a Facebook page to get student and community support. Although having a popular Facebook page will not result in a new ASU course, it could definitely be a large stepping-stone in bringing light to the benefit of urban beekeeping class and thus gaining faculty support (which is essential to creating new classes.)

But, instead of boring you with process details, I’d like to explain just why having a beekeeping class in the downtown campus of Arizona State University would be beneficial for students and the community.

  1. The class would provide new student learning opportunities

    ASU does have a beekeeping class at the polytechnic campus that meets in the spring, however, urban beekeeping is a more practical skill for those students in the city wanting to foster an apiary. Having a class at the downtown Phoenix campus of ASU, would provide the knowledge and skills to students interested in honey and honeybees necessary to grow the beekeeping community.

  2. Beekeeping benefits city agriculture and plant life.

    Keeping the city green is not always an easy thing to do, especially in a hot, industrial city. Downtown Phoenix is making moves toward being a greener city and bees will be an integral part of the process. In addition to providing learning opportunities for ASU students, the bees will help encourage growth in community gardens and natural plantlife.

    Sara Norton, a junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and “like”-er of the Facebook page, believes this is the most important reason for having an urban beekeeping class downtown.

    “I think people need to understand how vital bees are to pollinating plants and flowers,” Norton said. “I was watching a clip a while ago on how bees are going extinct and how much farmers rely on them to pollinate their crops. Once the bees are gone, we lose that. It would be beneficial for kids at ASU to understand these natural pollinators we have. It would also be interesting. It’s a little unorthodox.”

  3. Honey created by bees would benefit the community

    Students in the class and members of the community who could purchase the honey would gain from its many benefits, particularly allergies suffered in Phoenix.

If you’re interested in bringing an urban beekeeping class to ASU, please “like” our Facebook page.

Why honey is more than just a delicious treat

November 1, 2012 § 1 Comment


Honey from the Beetanical garden.

We all know that honey is one of the most delicious treats you can have. I personally like to drizzle it over vanilla ice cream, eat it on toast or with various fruits (…or if I’m being honest, just by the spoonful.) But honey is much more than just a delicious treat, bearing with it many health benefits.

One of such benefits is skin ailment. Honey can be used in a face mask due to its extreme moisturizing properties. Honey is also thought to help with acne and helping skin to glow.

“According to preliminary research, Manuka, and Kanuka types of honey can effectively treat Acne vulgaris, the skin condition that is caused by inflammation and infection of the pilosebaceous follicle on the face, back, and chest,” says. 

A recipe I enjoy to make is mixing equal parts of olive oil, raw honey and brown sugar. The mixture works as a lip and face scrub to exfoliate dead skin.

In addition, consuming local honey on a daily basis helps your body fight off allergies by building immunity to allergens. It is important the honey is local because you want to build immunity to the allergens with which you come in contact.

“It will build your immune system,” said a beekeeper and honey producer from the Beetanical Garden at the Arizona Honey Festival.

She recommends having a teaspoon in the morning on an empty stomach.

“That way it will build in your system much faster than taking it with other stuff,” she said. “Of course it would be nice if you could substitute all the sugar for honey.”

So go ahead–eat all the honey you like!


Checking on the bees at Growhouse

September 25, 2012 § 2 Comments

7:00 a.m. It was much earlier than I had wanted to be up on a Saturday. But there was a good reason. I got ready as quickly as I could and drove across the city to downtown Phoenix. As I pulled up to Growhouse, the sun had risen just enough to create a ray of warmth as I stepped out of my car.

Today was beekeeping day.

After I interviewed Kenny Barrett, the Program Manager of Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation, the previous week, he offered for me to put on a bee suit with him and take care of the hives. And I sure jumped on that opportunity.

After getting our suits on (of which mine was significantly too large, leaving me feeling like the Michelin Man) we were ready to begin. We removed the top of the hive and one by one pulled out the panels to check for disease and to ensure there was still an active queen. As if getting to see the bees in action wasn’t enough of a treat, I got to taste the honey at the end!

The whole process took just under two hours and by the time we finished, I was certainly glad we started as early as we did. Those marshmallow suits are very warm.

A Bee Conversation with Growhouse from Kendra Worsnup on Vimeo.
Music: “Song for Sonny” by Plusplus, used with a creative commons license

beehive entranceBeehive PanelBees on honeycombbees fly into hiveKendra Worsnup Beekeeping

Keep bees at downtown Phoenix garden Growhouse

September 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

Considering Phoenix is the sixth largest city in the United States and maintains a hot desert climate, you might be surprised to discover that there are places right in downtown that participate in beekeeping.Map of Growhouse

Situated in Roosevelt Row is Growhouse, a non-profit community garden. Growhouse started beekeeping during the spring of this year after being approached with the idea by PBS.

PBS wanted to film beekeeping at the Growhouse for television show SciGirls that encourages “tween” girls to pursue their interests in sciences. They chose three girls from the Bioscience High School to start and maintain the hives for a month, proving that beekeeping in the desert was a possibility.

And it was. The bees have been making honey since March of this year and have survived the hottest months of the summer.

Although the beekeeping was prompted by an outside source, Growhouse has kept it going.

Kenny Barrett, Program Manager for Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation, has spent a lot of time involved in maintaining the hives since the television show was through filming.

According to Barrett, the beekeeping has come to a bit of a halt. They have not been able to afford the equipment necessary to extract the honey, but he is hoping to acquire it soon.

beehives at Growhouse

Beehives painted by students at the Bioscience High School, located behind Growhouse. This photo was taken on my iPhone.

Bees on the basil in front of Growhouse

Bees on the basil in front of Growhouse

The very beeginning

September 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

Since a young age, I have had a great love for raw honey. But it wasn’t until January of this year that I fell in love with the honey-making process. Bees quickly became of my greatest fascinations, often leading me to stand a little too close to fields of them; I couldn’t help myself. There is nothing more thrilling than watching a small honeybee work so hard to create its honey—art in its truest form.

I’m not sure what finally pulled the trigger into my full-fledged adoration, but this video produced by Kinfolk Magazine played a huge roll:

Honey Harvest from Kinfolk on Vimeo.

This past summer, I finally go to try my hand at beekeeping and it was everything I imagined it would be.

beekeeping with my cousin

Now, I am obsessed. Beekeeping has seeped into my long-term career (or, at the very least, hobby) goals, and even into my art.

Drawing I made of a bee

Until I can get my own hives, I want to learn everything I can about beekeeping. This blog will document  my findings on techniques, locations for beekeeping, beekeeping events and more honey and bee-related things in the Phoenix area.

I hope you enjoy it!

  • The Author

    Journalism & Social justice student • fashion blogger • ELL Specialist • I like to explore, create, learn, drink caffeinated beverages & dream about honey bees.

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