To further our place in Philadelphia’s ecological environment, we are pleased to announce that Half Mad Honey chose the Navy Yard as the site for its second apiary. The founders Amelia Mraz and Natasha Pham are the beekeepers behind this organization. Their overall goal is to empower people with mental illness through the therapeutic realm of beekeeping. Amelia stumbled into beekeeping, and here is her story:
I stumbled into beekeeping impulsively, registering for an undergraduate horticulture class very much outside my major of psychology. I quickly became fascinated by the subtleties each hive relies on and those they create. Throughout my years in the apiary, tending to bees has become a meditative and therapeutic practice for me. When I signed up for the course, I was feeling lost, and I was searching outside myself for some source of comfort. At the time, the thought of connecting and working with bees and nature sounded comforting, so I signed up for a beekeeping class.
Honey bees are innately sensitive to emotions, and communicate through pheromones. They can detect when you are irritated or anxious, and this in turn will agitate a hive. While holding a 60 lb. box with 70,000 bees inside, I am conscious of the depth of my breath, the placement of my feet in the grass, and the feeling of fuzzy abdomens vibrating and tickling my fingertips. In moments of fear I must surrender, and trust myself, as well as the bees. I focus on the sound of their wings fluttering and the cool fanning of air on my face. When I perform a hive inspection, I immerse myself as much as possible in the complexities and intricacies of the eusocial organization of Apis Mellifera. I see thousands of eggs and new lives being created and emerging, and I am brought outside of myself, feeling connected to something larger, I am able to be calm.
Beekeeping has been a source of education about my recovery. It has taught me trust, an act that does not come easily to me. It has also taught me that recovery is not linear. Furthermore, like mental wellness, in beekeeping there are always problems that need to be solved, prevented, and managed. Though bees are innately wild and beekeeping is fundamentally for the beekeeper, bees are a dying species that are constantly facing adversity to their survival. Regularly managing my own mental illness and symptoms, I feel like beekeeping has become a relevantly consolidated space in which I can draw parallels to my own wellness journey and process its past and trajectory.
Half Mad Honey’s mission is inspired by other mental health movements which aim to create awareness and education surrounding mental illness. Promoting the calming qualities of beekeeping, our logo the serotonin compound represents one of the main chemicals responsible for mood regulation in the body. Parallelly, studies have shown that honey has many neuropharmacological benefits, and can be specifically useful as an antidepressant. Half Mad Honey is dedicated to empowering those living with mental disorders and building a community based in peer support facilitated through the therapeutic realm of honey bees and beekeeping.
Half Mad Honey will be using the honey from the hives to create healing salves, as well as honey and honeycomb – all available for purchase.
Follow the apiary on Instagram @halfmadhoney, & check back for more updates on the Yard BLOG.