Around the Island

Friday Night Dialogues: On bees and beekeeping

012617_Bees_Sarah Shepherd
BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | Sarah Shepherd, shown above with her bees at a 2014 farmer’s market, is the next presenter at library’s Friday Night Dialogues series.

 Shelter Island’s own Sarah Shepherd is a beekeeper, herbalist, chicken farmer and gardener — “It’s my calling, it’s my work here in this world,” she says as she lectures and teaches, spreading the message to the community that honeybees are being challenged globally at an alarming rate due to pesticides, parasites, disease and habitat loss.

On Friday, January 27 at 7 p.m. Friday Night Dialogues at the Shelter Island Public Library presents Ms. Shepherd as she illuminates and details the fascinating world of “Bees and Beekeeping” via storytelling, poetry and song. She’ll also tell us how we can all help to bring more bees to the area and support the bee population.

“Bees are easily among the most important insects to humans on earth. The humble, buzzing bugs deserve a huge thanks — for helping provide us with our favorite fruits and vegetables, their delicious honey and beautiful, flowery gardens!” (

Ms. Shepherd will explain enough of the practical side of beekeeping to get you thinking clearly about making a commitment to a hive if that is your interest. Additionally she will flesh out what we all can do to make a difference.

Here are just a few pointers:

• Grow native plants, which the bees will love.

• Don’t use insecticides containing neonicotinoid, a substance that confuses bees and makes it difficult for them to find their way back to the hive.

• Be respectful of the bees. If you don’t attempt to hurt them, they likely won’t have cause to sting you.

• Keeping bees is not cheap, so support your local beekeeper and buy local honey.

“All sorts of fruit and vegetables are pollinated by honey bees, such as broccoli and squash, apples and almonds. Pollination is not just important for the food we eat directly, it’s vital for the foraging crops, such as field beans and clover, used to feed the livestock we depend on for meat.” (BBC iWonder)

In the writings, artwork and symbolism of cultures and religions around the world, from time immemorial, are references to bees and the substances they collect in nature and make in their bodies, namely honey, bee pollen, bee propolis, royal jelly and wax. The references are almost always of renewal, rebirth and new beginnings, and the substances, along with the bees and the beehive, have always been held in the highest esteem, almost sacred.

Studying the physical, social and work-ethic aspects of bees is fascinating — bees and their place in our world are vitally important. Please join us to hear Ms. Shepherd’s adventures in beekeeping and recommendations on how our community can sustain these pollinators who, in kind, help secure our local and national food supply.

Admission to the talk is free, but donations are gladly accepted.