Urban Zen beekeeping is is all about intention, Therese Oxford says. It’s about helping the bees; the workers, drones and the queen, and not just about harvesting honey. It’s about not using pesticides, antibiotics, sugar or even plastic in the hives. She believes the factory farming of bees is contributing to their destruction. Back in the nineties she first became very interested in them as she read about their plight. She later took classes at the Green Gulch Zen Center. “If bees don’t make it, we won’t make it,” she says. “Time for radical language! This is it! We have to get out of denial or we’re done.”
She started maintaining bee hives for restaurants in 2009 and now she maintains roof top hives for some of San Francisco’s top restaurants including Jardiniere, Quince, Cotogna, Nopa and Tony’s Pizza. She doesn’t do it for the money though, and she takes much less honey than the average beekeeper. She likes to leave enough for the bees to overwinter without having to feed them sugar or corn syrup. She also never uses miticides to treat mites. Her hives are “survivor” hives she says and she believes they are stronger without antibiotics or pesticides. Her unconventional methods seem to work. This year she lost no hives. Well, except one, to a mouse.
When I asked her if she thought more people should get into beekeeping she says no. “It’s too easy to kill bees, it’s a lot of work to keep bees alive. Instead, focus on making something green. Plant a garden, support a tree.” she says, “Make some food for bees and if you really want to get started in beekeeping, help a beekeeper.”