Munch and Learn Recap: Bees Give Us Honey and Food

Molly Peacher-Ryan is a native Memphian and serves as the coordinator of the Food Justice Ministry at First Congregational Church, in the Cooper-Young neighborhood. The ministry involves direct outreach, including a food pantry and Community Lunches every weekday. The program also strives to address the causes, and not just the symptoms, of food insecurity and inequality in Memphis. To that end, the church keeps a raised bed garden that provides fresh produce for the pantry and three beehives.   

Molly has only been a bee keeper for three years but she’s learned a lot in that time through experience and talking with other, more experienced bee keepers. The three hives that belong to the church are Russian bees. There are over 4000 species of bees in North America but all the honey bees originally came from Europe. There are three types of bees in each hive, the queen, the workers, who are all female, and the drones who are all male and are pretty much only there for reproduction.   

Bees are one of many things, including birds and bats that are pollinators. However, insect pollinators are declining. In 1947 there were 6 million hives, in 1980 there were 4.5 million and in 2008 there were 2.4 million hives. There have been many theories as to what the cause of this decline is and the studies seem to lead to neonicotinoid insecticides as the culprit.  Neonicotinoids are neuro-active insecticides chemically similar to nicotine. Neonicotinoids seem to be a cause of bee colony collapse disorder because the insecticides disorient bees who then can’t find their way back to the hive. The European Union has banned the insecticides but the US is still investigating. The USDA is investing $20 million to study bee colony collapse.   

Whole Foods created a demonstration to show what produce selections we would have without bees. Our food choices would be affected from fruit and vegetables to the animals that are fed with food that bees pollinate.   


Bees can be kept for honey production or just to help the bee population. Bees produce honey so they will have food during the winter so, if honey is harvested, it is important to leave enough for the bees to eat over the winter. First Congregational started their bee hives to help the bee population and to educate others on bees, but harvesting honey has become a way to fund the project. So far, there have been two harvests which have produced 150-200 pounds of honey.  Molly stresses that bee keeping can be very hands off so it does not have to be difficult. 

- Linley Schmidt, Public Programs Coordinator

Posted by Chantal Drake at 4:08 PM
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