CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. — A petting zoo for bee drones and the sweet taste of honey attracted more than 1,400 people to the Annual Honey Bee Festival Saturday at the Rockwood Nature Center in Chesterfield. It was the ninth such event organized by the Rockwood Park Backyard Beekeepers Association.
“I love the local honey, it tastes a lot fresher than most store bought honey,” said Louise Woolard, a visitor and local beekeeper. “It has the added benefit of local plant pollination, which is helpful in the treatment of seasonal allergies.”
Informational buzz talks and bee smart stations, such as the observation hive and honey tasting extractions, set off the interactions between visitors and beekeepers at the festival and provided great learning opportunities.
“I am very proud of the work that the club is doing,” John Davis, a member of the association, said. “For me, they’re fascinating, and the interrelationship between how we affect the environment and how the environment affects us has always been interesting to me, and beekeeping kind of fits into that.”
Uptown Girls Honey and RVA Goats and Honey were some of the vendors contributing to event.
The mission of the Rockwood Park Backyard Beekeepers Association is to promote community awareness of bees and their important role for human life. The association teaches people about bees and encourages them to become certified master beekeepers.
“It’s a lot of fun, and they’re doing a great job in educating the community. They’re trying to encourage people to plant nature friendly gardens, because these pollinators are getting wiped out,” said Pam Kimball, a visitor at the festival.
The bee population worldwide has been affected because of habitat loss, parasites and pesticides.
The honey bee first arrived in Virginia in the 1620s when colonists put hives of bees into their ships to be off loaded in the colonies. The value of bees resides in their pollination, and it’s the reason why fruits taste juicy. Of the 90 percent of food for humans, 70 percent is pollinated by bees. Bees help sustain the environment, and only two square feet of land are needed in Virginia to keep bees, experts said.
“One way I think these festivals have really impacted the community is through the promotion of organic foods. If you’re buying it, then you’re helping the bees out by decreasing these problems,” said Gene Disalvo, the event head for the association. “The neat thing about bee keeping is that it draws so many people’s attention, the young, the old, people that are very scientifically inclined, and so on.”
“I feel a lot more comfortable around bees now, and I thought it was a very informative event as a whole,” said Amanda Winston after visiting the festival.
For those interested to learn more about bees and beekeeping, meetings for the Rockwood Park Backyard Beekeepers Association are held on the second Monday of each month from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Rockwood Nature Center in Chesterfield.
By Jason Devisser, Special to WTVR.com
EDITOR’S NOTE: WTVR.com has partnered with VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. A student from the program reported this story.