by Anne Batty
Bees are some of the hardest working creatures on the planet. It is a well-known fact that honeybees are one of nature’s greatest pollinators, and a necessary part of maintaining the earth’s ecological balance. Without these pollinators, most plants would be unable to reproduce, and crop bearing plants would not be fertilized well enough to yield the food crops necessary for an ever-expanding worldly population. And it is beekeepers like Anna Maria Desipris, who are working hard to collect, revive, re-locate, protect and nurture the bee colonies discovered daily in the surrounding south county area.
Maintaining hives in San Clemente, Laguna Beach and Silverado, honeybee keeper. Anna Maria, has her work cut out for her. General hive maintenance requires periodic inspections to make sure the queen is laying eggs, the workers are building up honey stores and the colony has enough space to expand. Hives also need to be checked for intruders – especially ants, one of the bee’s most dreaded nemeses.
Hives are checked weekly to assess bee health.
Along with maintenance, the relocation of hives requires special procedures and equipment. When relocated, the bees may reject their new location, refusing to stay, insisting on returning to their previous area. This situation requires locating the queen bee, re-gathering the bees and relocating the hive. Additionally, bees can become ill - most frequently from the many pesticides in use today - causing the hive to die.
“One of the hardest lessons I have had to learn as a beekeeper is detachment, and that I have no control over nature” Anna Maria revealed. “Bees are very intelligent creatures and we have to respect their will. In caring for them we come to know each other. They know my scent and my voice and we become close like a family. Therefore it is always devastating to be unable to relocate or to lose a hive as it is like losing a loved one”
Addressing the issue of African Bees infiltrating local hives Anna Maria shared that hives in the area can become Africanized, but unless the bees are extremely aggressive it is important not to immediately exterminate a hive. When a hive is discovered and a professional beekeeper is called, they can determine the viability of preserving and relocating the hive, thus maintaining this very important ecological population.
Considering the time, dedication and hard work required of beekeepers, one might wonder what attracts someone to this field. When asked how she became interested in this art Anna Maria explained … “My ancestral and cultural lineage includes Greece and Sicily. They, as well as many of the other European heritages, have worked with honeybees for hundreds of years. My love for honeybees was only a recent discovery in my life. Six years ago while working at the River School Farm in Reno, NV my boss and mentor shared the magic of bees with me and I have been hooked ever since.”
Change of Plans
Upon leaving Nevada and re-locating to the south county area to work at The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano, Anna Maria’s original interest in pre-med studies was exchanged for the pursuit of a Permaculture Certification. With a foundation in chemistry and science from her previous studies she was well-equipped for switching to the study of land regenerative agriculture and designing spaces close to nature; a more holistic approach to the development of agriculture. To that end she has become involved, not only with The Ecology Center and beekeeping, but has assisted in laying the foundation for the farms at Sendero and Essencia located within the Rancho Mission Viejo project, helping with the construction of Agrihoods (food gardens) within that development.
“Working on those farms, I have also had opportunity to educate others in growing food, composting, and how to enjoy and prepare the food they have grown,” she said.
Expanding on her passion to educate, she has also formed a venue for teaching the art of beekeeping to others. On her website, The HoneyBee Hub, she offers classes for an apprenticeship in beekeeping. Course participants meet one Sunday a month for five months. Each session includes classroom learning and time spent suited up inspecting hives. The course includes bee history, terminology, starting a hive, maintenance, harvesting honey, rescues and removals, and more.
“My present session has five students, with ten on the wait list for the next session” Anna Maria shared. “Other classes I offer are hands on and can be taught for groups in classrooms, gardens, or on farms. They are tailored to fit the needs of the students.”
Her vision for the future is a shift in cultural thinking toward the land and farming. She also hopes for a revival of the ancient practice of beekeeping so the public will have access to the safe removal of hives and their rescue from extermination. And she would love to see fun and engaging opportunities provided for children to learn of the importance of bees and to grow up loving them rather than fearing them.