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Biodynamic Beekeeping at Spikenard Honeybee Sanctuary

August 13, 2012

At the hives

By Shayne Gipe

At the height of the Earth’s great yearly exhale, a group of beekeepers from throughout the United States and Canada arrived to Spikenard Honeybee Sanctuary in Floyd, Virginia, to explore sustainable practices in beekeeping. This June began the first of a unique two-year training in biodynamic beekeeping led by Gunther Hauk and his wife Vivian. Many of the attendants were those with a conventional education in beekeeping, who had found something lacking in what they had learned and were seeking a deeper connection to the bees.  Often referred to as the “canary in the coal mine,” a beehive is a strong barometer for environmental conditions. The now well-documented decline in health of the world’s pollinators, the honeybee among them, can be seen as a measure of how our Earth is faring, and study of the bees can suggest ways in which its healing can begin.

Honeybee on anise hyssop

The workshops and lectures, among them talks on hive shapes and various preparations, served as an introduction to biodynamic practices and ways of encouraging vibrant relationships with nature, using the hive as a lens to learning. The focus remained on garnering methods not simply to sustain the garden and planet, but to enrich its wellbeing, in the process elevating our own. Time not occupied in discussion was spent in art classes, studying the form of the honeybee and the flower, or in the sanctuary itself. One of the most powerful moments during the weekend was a gathering among the twenty-five hives in the hushed warmth of the sunlight to silently perceive the bees and to share observations and experiences had while sitting at the hive entrances. With a garden as a classroom, the bees themselves taught wordlessly what seemed to be a lesson in love and diligence, as the group regarded them navigating lavender, motherwort, catnip, and sage. Witnessing this perfect union between the bee and the flower, it is easy to understand that the duty of the beekeeper must be not only to the hives, but to the Earth as well.

Founded in 2006, Spikenard Sanctuary strives to redeem the health and vibrancy of the honeybee, as well as other pollinators, through biodynamic practices. As a nonprofit organization, it is with great intention that the Sanctuary hopes to raise awareness among the global community of ways in which to revitalize our understanding of the Earth-organism and its wellbeing.

Shayne Gipe is an intern at Spikenard Farm and Honeybee Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is located in the heart of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Its mission is to promote sustainable and biodynamic beekeeping through education and research, and to provide a space for people to experience a thriving landscape where honeybees and other pollinators can live, heal, and prosper. More information about the Sanctuary and its programs can be found at

Gunther Hauk will lead two workshop sessions on biodynamic and sustainable beekeeping at the 2012 Biodynamic Conference, as well as participate in a pre-conference intensive workshop on farm-based education.

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