At Perpetual Pollen, we are always on the lookout for new amazing partners in our quest to save the bees—and these days, they’re absolutely everywhere! We came across the multi-talented Lyndsey (beekeeper, artist, photographer, and educator), The Apiary Artist, on Instagram. Her stunning images of the many pollinators that visit her garden in Virginia and, of course, her own bee family, were what drew us in. The incredible education in her comments kept us scrolling—and learning. Lyndsey was kind enough to give us some of her time, so read on as we talk beekeeping and, of course, saving the bees.
First off, we are huge fans of your work and incredible art helping humans to better understand the world of bees. Could you tell us a little bit about your work and mission?
Thank you for following along and being a fan of what I do. I am the owner of Shadow Horse Studios, LLC., and its subsidiaries, The Apiary Artist and Creative Beeings. I have been a full-time artist and educator since 2002. My mission is to promote pollinator awareness and appreciation through art, photography, beekeeping, and educational outreach. Pollinator and habitat conservation is heavily emphasized throughout the work I do.
The Apiary Artist is mainly a social media presence to showcase images of pollinators through photography, my beekeeping adventures, and more recently, some of my fine art and illustration. My Creative Beeings platform is where I’ve been quietly pouring my heart and soul into developing for the past 3 years. It is an educational platform that unites interdisciplinary art lessons with pollinator awareness, spotlighting conservation art and artists, and artivizzm (that’s artivism with a buzz)!
I have been creating empowering educational curriculums complete with units and lessons that foster a strong awareness for our world’s pollinators and the valuable ecosystems they inhabit. These will be available for all educators and pollinator advocates to use in their programs. I hold a Master of Art Teaching from the Maryland Institute College of Art and a BFA in illustration from the Hartford Art School. I have lots of years of experience with teaching and curriculum development for pre-K-12 and college level. I’ve worked as a public and private art educator for many years in addition to running my own studio art business.
I have been piloting art education curriculums with units and lessons focused on pollinators and conservationism with both in-person and online courses for students of various ages. The COVID quarantine year really allowed me to explore online Zoom classes and get a handle on creating virtual lessons. The ultimate goal is for Creative Beeings to serve as a place for students to learn, a resource tool for educators, a place for community collaborations, and as a place to showcase pollinator and conservation artists from around the world. Currently the Creative Beeings IG profile is a placeholder where I’ve been showcasing work by pollinator artists from around the world. That’s about to evolve really soon along with its own website!
How did you first get started working with bees?
I have always loved honeybees and have always wanted a few hives of my own. I apprenticed for a few years, starting in 2012, then took additional courses through my local beekeepers association in 2016. Now, a little over six years later, I keep anywhere between 14 to 20 colonies, but have been scaling back some to prepare for an eagerly anticipated move back to New England.
My approach to beekeeping may be quite different than what would be expected. My bees are an educational resource; I do not keep bees for honey, pollen, or propolis. Those things are merely an added sweet bonus and I only extract if the bees have enough to spare some. I never supplement my healthy established colonies with syrup. I leave 65 to 85 lbs of honey in my colonies for winter.
Honeybees are the bees most people are familiar with and because I have observation hives, I am able to bring bees with me to supplement the educational experience—they are the gateway bee to introducing people to native bees and other pollinators. People are, more often than not, shocked to learn that honeybees are not native to North America, but in light of that, they still respect the important role honeybees play in agriculture and pollination.
Between your art, photography, beekeeping, and bee rescue, where do you spend most of your time?
Most of my time is spent in my studio, as I do still work in a freelance capacity with my main studio business. My goal is to be able to shift over into focusing entirely on my own fine art pursuits within the next few years. I am working on two bodies of fine artwork that emphasize pollinators and nature. I am also designing and further developing curriculum and lessons, piloting them with students of various ages. It’s been quite a process and labor of love, but I am proud of the journey it’s taken me on and the successes I have had. I am eager for Creative Beeings to go live once it is truly ready!
Managing my hives in my apiary is my stress relief. It is there that I often find myself brainstorming some of my best ideas for artwork, lessons, writings, and even stories I plan to illustrate for children’s books. Gardening is another hobby I utilize for my own stress management. I carry my camera with me at all times in the apiary and the gardens to capture and document any and every little insect that I can. A lot of what I capture during these ventures are the photographic images that make their way onto my social media feeds.
Rescuing honeybees is something I do only when I have the time and the space. If I am out of both, I recommend other local beekeepers who also rescue honeybee colonies. Last year during quarantine I did more bee rescues than I have ever done. Some people called that year “Swarmeggeddon,” but I personally believe the uptick in rescues was due to so many people being at home to take notice of swarms arriving or established colonies living in their structures. The outcome of last year’s rescues has me at my limit with the amount of colonies I manage in my bee yard. I did not do any rescues this year, though I did have two swarms move into some old empty hives, but they did that of their own accord with no help from me. Now they’re part of the family.
Most people are vaguely aware of the bee problem where many colonies are collapsing. From your experience and education, what are the main causes of colony collapse?
Colony collapse disorder is an issue that still baffles those who study it. There are a lot of factors that may be contributing to CCD. We know very well that colonies with high mite counts are susceptible to many maladies due to their weakened state. A heavy mite infestation can be a vector for many viruses and there is no doubt in my mind that mites do play a role in some of the CCD cases.
I also believe stress on colonies is a huge and often overlooked contributor to CCD. More and more studies are being done on the environmental stressors—such as little to no forage or low quality forage options, the continual loss of habitat and valuable ecosystems to commercial and residential development, and chemical dependency in the lawn care and agriculture—that play a dangerous role in all this. Without proper food and with continual exposure to pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and the like, our bees are suffering.
How large of a role do varroa mites play in your local beekeeping community?
Varroa mites and small hive beetles are equally devastating in my particular area among the local beekeepers. We live in an area of Loudoun County, Virginia, that has a very unique weather pattern. Where I am, in the Furnace Mountain region, our summer and autumn climate is hot, wet, and very humid. Small hive beetles and varroa mites can thrive if you are not proactive about dealing with them from the get-go.
Since there are many beekeepers all around me, it’s crucial that we all do our part to care for our bees and maintain their health as they all share the same foraging range and can easily transmit diseases among each other.
What are the largest challenges you face on a daily basis with your work: beekeeping, bee rescue, and art?
I am often left speechless with the overall lackadaisical and, worse, anthropocentric attitudes many people still have in regards to the natural world and the creatures we share it with. This is what I consider to be my greatest challenge. It is my hope that by reaching the younger generations through art and education, I can help empower them to make the right choices, choices that will enable them to make positive and impactful changes for our world.
Art and photography are highly visual and human beings are visual creatures. Visually communicating through imagery is a powerful means and the very act of creating artwork allows for deeply inspired and meaningful connections with our inner voices to further generate the dialogue that needs to happen for pollinator awareness and conservation on a broad scale.
Beekeeping has its own set of challenges, but overall, it was the gateway into the very direction I have taken with my life. Honeybees are a valuable tool when discussing bees and other pollinators. Since we are directly managing honeybees we can see firsthand the consequential impact chemicals and loss of habitat have on pollinators. What we directly witness in our honeybee colonies we can assume is happening at a greater level to our native pollinator species. Many beekeepers turn into environmental advocates and supporters of pollinators because of this. Honeybees are the perfect indicator species for what their wild cousins and insect friends are struggling with in terms of habitat loss and destruction as well as chemical use.
What do you believe is the key to saving the bees?
Because my focus is not just honeybees, I firmly believe the best way to saving all pollinators, whether bees, moths, butterflies, beetles, flies, etc., is protecting valuable ecosystems from development, requiring neighborhoods and businesses to have pollinator and wildlife patches, and even giving them incentives to do so. Lessening, or if possible, entirely eliminating our dependency on chemicals in landscape and agricultural care. The monoculture agriculture currently practiced is an outdated system and the focus should be on more sustainable agriculture practices such as permaculture.
What can individuals do to help save the bees?
Individuals can start right now by planting pollinator-friendly native plants that are indigenous to the area in which they live. I encourage people to join their local wildlife societies and associations, as well as local native plant societies. Most areas even have pollinator groups and there are of course many beekeeping groups and associations across the nation.
How can communities help support local beekeepers like yourself?
The best way you can support your local beekeepers is by shopping local and being actively aware of the challenges they are facing in regards to managing their hives. For me, personally, because I do not consider myself a honey producer, the best way to support a beekeeper like me is simply to say no to pesticide treatments on your gardens and lawns and plant pollinator-friendly plants—the more native plants you have, the better for all pollinators. Start by creating habitat in your landscape. Support for beekeepers and our pollinator species can start right in our own backyards.
We saw that you’re working with the Planet Bee Foundation. Can you tell us a little about what they do?
The Planet Bee Foundation is a wonderful non-profit organization that is dedicated to creating a green-minded generation by spotlighting the struggling bee to foster environmental literacy and stewardship, empowering individuals to take action. I proudly and fully stand by and support their initiative, as we share a common mission.
If you could send one message to the entire world about bees, what would it be?
I want people to know that the power to make a difference is within them. Every small action taken to save bees and other pollinators is, in fact, a hugely beneficial one, whether they realize it or not. Simply devoting some time to plant for pollinators and wildlife starts with a single native plant. You can do this if you have a small yard or a large one, and you can do this with patio plants on an urban balcony.
It can begin with a conversation about pollinator awareness and grows from there—it’s really that simple, just start somewhere!
We love that. How can people learn more about your work and art?
Simply following along on my journey across my social media platforms is a good place to start. The Apiary Artist is a relatively young platform and is continually growing and expanding. I will be showcasing a lot more of my artwork through my social media platforms as I continue onwards. I readily answer messages and emails and will be announcing the Creative Beeings art lessons available for fall!
Anything else you'd like our readers to know?
I cannot emphasize enough that if you are interested in saving bees, every small action taken to do so is a hugely beneficial one! Don’t be afraid to simply jump in and start somewhere.