The Heart of a Healthy Hive: Teamwork!

A busy frame in springtime, with worker bees, young larvae, and capped drone brood

A busy frame in springtime, with worker bees, young larvae, and capped drone brood

Of all the teamwork at Urban Tree, nothing can beat the workings of a bee.  The two resident honeybee colonies of our farm have stayed strong and healthy through the 2012 season, pollinating our crops and gathering nectar which they use to make honey.  After the loss of our hive last year, we got two new hives this March in the most unlikely way possible: through the U.S. Postal Service!  The bees quickly settled into their new homes at 53rd & Wyalusing, raising thousands of young to prepare to collect the springtime nectar flow.

Que dons the veil and gloves for a hive check-up

Que dons the veil and gloves for a hive check-up

As the season progressed, the hive was a view into the variety of the urban ecosystem.  In the cells of the honeycomb, the bees stored pollen in a range of yellow, orange and red hues.  Seasonal flower variation also came through in the honey, with lighter honey in the early summer and darker honey in the fall.  Sometimes the bees got defensive and stung the beekeepers intruding in their home.  After a particularly swollen eyelid, we decided to invest in a bee suit.

Kalib zips Ryan into the bee suit

Kalib zips Ryan into the bee suit

With protective gear on hand, more staff joined the ranks of UTC beekeepers. Ryan helped with the springtime colony installation and Que overcame his fear of bees, leading many successful hive inspections throughout the summer.

Bees arrive at the hive with heavy loads of pollen on their hind legs

Bees arrive at the hive with heavy loads of pollen on their hind legs

The bees, in their highly organized mini-society, have taught us so many lessons about working together towards a common goal.  Worker bees perform various jobs, from foraging for nectar to sealing up cracks in the hive to feeding the larvae.  But when there is a need for extra hands (or wings) on deck for another job, the bees don’t hesitate to step up.  At the height of summer, when the hive overheats, many workers stop what they’re doing to fan their wings at the hive entrance, circulating air.

Teamwork, initiative, diligence and flexibility are all essential characteristics found in our amazing team of farmers, landscapers, chefs, activists, librarians and teachers that keep our collective of gardens buzzing with energy.  We left the bees with ample honey stores to survive the winter, and they leave us with much food for thought as we work towards building our own, cohesive, healthy community.

-Annie Preston
UTC’s Program Director
(Photos by Sue Witte and Robert Berliner)


Carrot Heads and Outdoor Artists at Memorial Garden Club

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Fall is the time for enjoying our harvest at Memorial Garden Club and learning about how to prepare the land for winter. This November our group of kids took time to try the many different veggies that they planted and grew in the past two months, as well as capturing the fall landscape in drawings.



In the beginning of November we planted rye seeds in an empty bed and learned about how cover crops protect the soil from runoff and restore nutrients as well. Two weeks later the same bed was full of rye grass and ready for a cold winter!

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The beds that we planted were full of lettuce , spinach and carrots. The kids got to try all of them, and spicy mustard greens as well, and everyone took some home to their families.  Many of the carrots were grown close together so they came up as baby carrots-delicious and sweet!

memorialgardenscan1.jpg“Fruit” by Destiny

The group also explored the crab apple tree at the garden and picked lots of the little “apples” which everyone decided looked more like cherries, but wouldn’t taste like them.  While the farm gets chiller in the fall, the Garden Club members still manage to have fun, learn and grow together!

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– Addie Ansell, UTC’s Philly Fellow and Curriculum Development Coordinator