Sunday, April 3, 2011

Bees at Marathon Farm

In addition to Woodford Mansion, I am super excited about my other new apiary location this year.  Thanks to friend and fellow acupuncturist Laura Hawley, I learned about the Marathon Farm project a few months ago. It's a project of the mini-chain of Marathon restaurants in Philly. In a nutshell, they are taking a big vacant lot at 27th and Master in the Brewerytown neighborhood and transforming it into an urban farm. The food grown at the farm will be bought by the restaurants and also sold to the community via a small farmers market near the site. You can read more about the farm and their progress here. When I learned about the project I immediately emailed farmer Patrick and asked if they would be interested in having bees at the farm. He spoke with the owner of Marathon and everyone was really excited about it, so it was a go.

With the support of an incredible array of volunteers, the farm has come together quickly and seeds have already been sown. There are a bunch of raised beds and a small greenhouse. There are plans for a picnic area and a small play area for kids. These are the kinds of projects that we need more of, especially with the ridiculous number of vacant lots in our fair city!

Since my packages of bees for this site came earlier than I expected, we had to scramble to get the site ready. Including myself, there are now 3 Adams involved in the Marathon Farm project - the farm manager and the education director are both Adam too. Farmer Adam, the owner of the Marathon Grill, Cary and I cleared a spot for the hives in a location where they should receive nice early morning sun. We plan on putting some kind of low barrier around the hives to discourage people from getting too close.

Checking out the queen with farmer Adam.

I meant to do the same type of front door queen introduction that I did at Woodford, but I forgot to bring a little stick to attach to the queen cage and I couldn't find anything on site. So instead I just laid the queen cage on the bottom board.

Dumping the bees in on top of the queen

Check out the "hive stands", rounds of tree from some of the weed trees that they cut down as they were clearing the lot (remember that if you click on images, you can see them full size).

First hive set up, getting ready for the second

Second hive

In the next picture you can see the raised beds of the farm and the greenhouse. Across the street from the farm is a recreation center with some ball fields.

Both hives set up, view of the farm and greenhouse

This is the view looking in the opposite direction. You can see this is an oddly shaped lot, triangular, with long brick walls that must have been part of a large building. The lot just goes back into a corner. This is where they plan to put in a kids play area.

Future site of kids play area

The weather last week after installing all 4 of my packages was pretty nasty, cold and rainy. The bees didn't have much chance to forage, but they should be fine with all of the honey and pollen that I gave them. I was able to look in the hives this weekend to check on things. One of the hives was bringing in bright yellow pollen, it didn't take them long to find food! Mainly I wanted to see if the queens had been released from their cages and three out of four of them were released. One of the queens at Woodford was still in her cage, all of the attendant bees in her cage were dead but she was fine. The bees in the hive didn't release her for some reason, it actually kind of looked like they were ignoring her. I am learning that you can tell a lot about a hive by observing the activity in front of it and the bees in front of this hive were acting weird, they were not aggressive but they looked disorganized. I opened the queen cage and gently placed her on top of the frames and watched her scoot down into the hive. Hopefully everything will be fine, but only time will tell. Once the weather warms up a bit, I'll do a more thorough inspection of all hives to see if I can see signs of healthy, laying queens.


  1. so happy to have found your blog!

    just a thought but if you are in a highly residential area with a fair amount of foot traffic in proximity to the hive flight path, a consideration might be to elevate the hives on platforms above head-level (ie White House hive).

    tremendous book, if you have not yet discovered it, is H. Storch's "At The Hive Entrance". detailed guide to interpreting bee behavior at the hive's entrance following a calendar year. I believe was written in the late 18oos. amazing, really helpful reference. my copy is dog-eared.

  2. Thanks for the feedback. In terms of elevating the hive, we kind of want it to be easily visible to people - we plan on doing some educational programming with it. But yes, it does bring risks with it, so we'll see how it goes.

    I have not heard of Storch's book, but I will definitely look into it. In my 3rd year of keeping bees I am starting to take more notice of their behavior in front of the hive.

    Thanks for reading!