2018 Honey is Here!
Bee Keeping at the Penrose Strawbridge House
Mrs Strawbridge's caretaker, Dennis Smith was known to have kept bees and since the property has been an active farm since Governor Keith's time, its likely that bees were kept here even prior to the Strawbridges.
Tadeus (Ted) Florek, had been keeping bees at another location but was being forced to move due to development of that location. Ted knew of the Penrose Strawbridge House through a friend and approached us about keeping bees here. We thought it was a great idea and Ted started building hives way back in 2009 and has been our beekeeper ever since.
A large part of the Penrose Strawbridge property is still farmed under a lease agreement between the township and a local farmer. The crops he plants: corn, rye, etc, unfortunately do not need bees for pollination so we quickly realized that our bees might have a hard time finding food. So in the summer of 2010 we planted a field of clover and some 'bee friendly' plants for them.
Since 2009 we have had good years and bad years - losing hives due to extremely cold winters, parasites and colony collapse disorder: a phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a queen, plenty of food and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees and the queen.
About Honey Bees
Honey bees are not native to North America, but were brought here from Europe. The most common type of honey bee normally found in the US is the Golden Italian - Apis Mellifera Ligustica. Bees travel from flower to flower gathering nectar which they bring back to the hive to turn into honey. It takes between 1000 to 1500 individual visits to fill just one sac and 60 full sacs to fill just one thimble with honey.
While gathering the nectar the bee gets covered in pollen and by traveling to many different flowers the bee transfers this pollen from one flower to another, a process known as pollination which is important to the reproduction of many plants. Honey bees account for about 80% insect pollination and are critical to agriculture.
Honey bees are highly social and live in large colonies called hives which can contain as many as 80,000 bees. Each hive has 1 queen who is larger than the other bees and lays all the eggs - up to 1500 per day. The queen has a large stinger and can use it multiple times. She can live up to 2 years.
Male bees are known as drones. They have no stinger. Only a small number of males are present in a hive at any time and they only live about 8 weeks. The drones only job is to mate with a new queen. The remaining bees are known as worker bees and they are all female. When young they work in the hive, when they mature they become foragers and go out searching for nectar. Worker bees have a stinger but when used it gets ripped out of their abdomen, killing the bee.
Bees will sting to protect their hives so it is best to stay away or be very careful and quiet when near their hives. We have large signs at the Penrose Strawbridge House warning people to stay away from the hives.
Interested in Becoming a Bee Keeper?
The Montgomery County Beekeepers' Association offers a great deal of information for bee keepers and for those interested in becoming a bee keeper.
While here at the Penrose Strawbridge House we have large area and a fairly large number of bees, you can start much smaller. Locally there are bee keepers in Philadelphia, Ambler, Glenside and many other urban and suburban areas. The bees can travel up to 2 miles to gather nectar.
You can also learn about bees here at the Penrose Strawbridge House. You can help us build hives, harvest and bottle honey, or learn how to be a beekeeper yourself. We also offer occasional workshops and classes on beekeeping so join our mailing list or follow us to keep in touch.