Thursday, July 12, 2018

Another thing to like about millennials: They’re into bees

Beekeeper Sam Torres checks on his apiary at Glen Foerd in Philadelphia. Photo: David Maialetti

Bethany Ao reports for

Every few days, Sam Torres heads to Glen Foerd in Northeast Philadelphia to check his beehives. He gets there about 8 a.m. because bees get up with the sun, and goes through the hives carefully to make sure his “girls” — beehives are a bona fide matriarchy at 85 to 90 percent female — are doing just fine. Smoker in hand, Torres looks at how many cells the bees have capped with wax, meaning that they’ve filled them with honey, and observes the larvae that will eventually grow into worker bees that clean and forage for the hive.

During one of these checks on a sunny Friday morning, Torres glanced up at the clear blue skies as he popped open one of the six hives he keeps at Glen Foerd. The beekeeper also works as the gardener at the estate, and in exchange he’s allowed to keep hives on the property. Each of the hives has 30,000 to 50,000 bees, producing 65 to 70 pounds of honey a year, on average.

“I don’t usually wear a beekeeping suit anymore,” said Torres, who has been beekeeping for five years after taking a class on it at Temple University. “Only when the bees get anxious because there’s a barometric pressure drop, which means that rain is coming. Rain means that they can’t work, and they basically exist just to work.”

Torres, 27, sells his honey and provides beekeeping consulting services under the name Keystone Colonies. He is part of a growing group in the Philadelphia beekeeping community: millennials. According to Michael Gonzales, a board member of the Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild, the organization has recently experienced an influx of younger, tattooed and smartphone-wielding members. Although there are no regulations prohibiting beekeeping in Philadelphia, apiaries must be registered with the Department of Agriculture.

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