Anna Maria Desipris is a beekeeper, herbalist, doula, professor and farmer.
Born of Greek and Sicilian descent, Anna Maria’s destiny was to be a steward of the land like her ancestors. Soon she found herself studying chemistry and biology at the University of Nevada at Reno with the intention of becoming a doctor. But when her journey sidestepped from medical school to work at the River School Farm in Reno, she discovered her love of bees.
After EIGHT years in the Southern California permaculture scene, rescuing beehives, restoring Desert Bloom Farm and teaching horticulture and bee guardianship, she and her partner now manage over 26 acres of Missouri heartland in their latest REGENERATIVE FARM.
We sat down with Anna Maria to talk about the power of bees and how she plans on working with the bees to regenerate her new farm in Missouri.
“A bee’s energetic field is the same frequency as the heart chakra, which is very similar to the energetic field of the Earth.” – Anna Maria
1. We’ve all heard about the dangers of bee decline and colony collapse. As a farmer and beekeeper, please tell us your first-hand experiences?
We are definitely in a very precarious situation because our country is dependent on an unhealthy and fragile agricultural system. Farmers are desperate for crops and commercial beekeepers are desperate to keep their hives healthy, but when bees are sent on stressful cross-country journeys to pollinate on monoculture farming fields that are covered in herbicides and pesticides, it’s no surprise they get sick and collapse.
The desperation manifests into a vicious cycle (in which) commercial beekeepers feed bees antibiotics, supplements and sugar to keep their colonies alive as they are put through the stresses of monoculture pollination. This plus the degradation of biodiversity across ecosystems and environments sums up to a many pronged problem that bees are facing.
It’s also true that unless you are buying local honey, the honey on grocery store shelves could be mostly cane and/or rice sugar with a little bit of honey from bees in foreign countries.
Honey isn’t a commodity, it’s sacred.
Bees are a gateway and their fragile health is indicative of the work we all need to participate in to regenerate our agriculture systems.
2. How would you describe your role as a beekeeper?
First, I’d say there are three main categories of beekeepers, and their roles are based on their intention.
Hobbyist beekeeper: This is someone who typically has a hive in an urban environment and receives a little bit of honey throughout the year.
Small-enterprise beekeeper: This is someone like myself who is running 20-100 hives and has a small operation selling honey and products. They are also out in the community providing education and resources for proper hive maintenance, removal and overall bee health.
Commercial beekeepers: This is someone who operates hundreds to thousands of hives and sends their bees around the country for pollination throughout the year or focus on breeding and raising new hives for sale. Their income tends to be fully reliant on their hives.
3. What do you wish people knew about bees?
It’s really important for people to know that there are so many spin-off companies who make money on their “save the bees” merchandise. However, if you really want to save the bees then focus on rehabilitating your own local ecosystem right in your front yard, backyard or city garden by planting native plants and flowers. Honeybees, native bees, and all pollinators need very diverse forage and that impact can be made significantly at the local level.
Also, I want people to know that they don’t need a beehive to make a difference. Eating local produce and buying locally made honey will make the impact to support bees positively.
Bees do need us to manipulate them, but we do need to focus on restoring wild spaces so they can thrive naturally.
4. How do you manage your hives?
My approach to hive care is Treatment Free and Natural methods, meaning I do not use anything synthetic inside of the hive. Also, I am fairly hands-off allowing the bees to operate at their own will, living out their natural tendencies and only interfering in dire circumstances.
If I am doing a rescue or hive relocation, it’s important to ensure the bees like their new location. Relocated bees can often reject their new location; so in these situations it requires locating the queen bee, regathering the bees and relocating the hive.
5. Do you have a special routine before you work with bees?
Bees are super sensitive to human emotions, so before I check on a hive, it’s very important that I center and ground myself. I only go into hives when it’s warm and sunny – no inclement weather. As an herbalist, I use a combination of white sage, rosemary and lavender in my smoker to calm the energy of the space before visiting my hives.
Anna Maria blends an herbal kindling in a smoker before approaching a hive. The smoke inhibits the bees’ pheromone communication – specifically signals to attack. IMAGE COURTESY THE HONEYBEE HUB.
6. What have you learned from bees?
So much! Bees are a cornerstone species, the health of the bees are very indicative of the health of the surrounding environment and the world. They have been spiritual shamans for me, teaching me how deeply connected everything in the biosphere is – the environment, human and animals.
Everytime I work and really study the bees, I feel as if they pull off another layer of understanding. I see how perfect nature is when left to operate on its own and yet how badly we’ve manipulated nature with our “heroic human” approach. They teach me to be ever so humble and that humility is how we should move forward in regenerating our agricultural food systems.
7. What’s your favorite recipe with honey (or should we say the nectar of the gods)?
Yes, the Greek in me can tell you that the honey from local beekeepers really is the nectar of the gods! Ah, I love a facemask with honey and a little bit of cinnamon, but as an herbalist, my favorite recipes are leveraging the healing powers of honey with the combination of other medicinal plants. My two favorite recipes would be:
Chamomile infused honey – Fill a jar halfway with chamomile flowers, add honey and let it sit for a month. Then strain it and you’re left with this insanely tasty honey you can use in tea and in medicine.
Garlic infused honey – Chop up garlic and add to a jar of honey. Allow to infuse for over a month. Now you have an amazing, natural antiviral medicine for anytime you feel a cold coming.
8. What’s your advice for anyone who wants to become a beekeeper?
If the bees are calling you, I recommend taking a local class from a natural beekeeper in your area. Please don’t buy a hive from a breeder – save an existing hive instead. I also teach online courses for anyone who is looking for an introduction to bee guardianship.
For information on Anna Maria’s beekeeper apprenticeship education, visit thehoneybeehub.com. You can also find her on Instagram @beekeepingmama.
For training, education and consultation services in the fields of permaculture and regenerative farming, visit her at www.aboutandforsustainability.com.