Anchor Center’s beekeeping program instills patience and pride

Courses rehabilitate women leaving the criminal justice system

Jessica McDanniel checks bees at the Anchor Center for Women in Cedar Rapids. Anchor Center probationers and parolees raise bees and collect honey to donate and use at the Residential Correctional Center. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

Mary Nelson holds a frame of a beehive at the Anchor Center for Women in Cedar Rapids. Anchor Center probationers and parolees raise bees and collect honey to donate and use at the Residential Correctional Center. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

Jessica McDanniel (left) and Mary Nelson (right) check bees at the Anchor Center for Women in Cedar Rapids on August 25. correctional center. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

Bees are pictured on a hive at the Anchor Center for Women in Cedar Rapids last month. Anchor Center probationers and parolees raise bees and collect honey to donate and use at the Residential Correctional Center. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

Jessica McDanniel stokes a smoker before checking bees at the Anchor Center for Women in Cedar Rapids. Anchor Center probationers and parolees raise bees and collect honey to donate and use at the Residential Correctional Center. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

Jessica McDanniel smokes a beehive at the Anchor Center for Women in Cedar Rapids. Anchor Center probationers and parolees raise bees and collect honey to donate and use at the Residential Correctional Center. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS – A beehive is a tightly managed system run almost entirely by worker bees. While the main purpose of male bees, or drones, is to mate with the queen to fertilize eggs, worker bees tend to these eggs and larvae, collect pollen, make honey, and perform all the other work necessary for the maintenance of the hive. .

Four of these female-run hives are just behind the Anchor Center for Women in Cedar Rapids, where the bees are raised and cared for by another group of hardworking women.

The Anchor Center is a rehabilitation center for women coming out of the criminal justice system. The women at the center participate in many different classes and programs, which are determined based on each individual’s risks, needs and strengths.

The beekeeping program has been offered at the center for about three years now. The bees arrive in early spring and the women have the opportunity to help look after them throughout the year – with the help of professional beekeepers – until the honey can be harvested. in autumn.

The Anchor Center hives are kept in stacked white boxes, some of which have been painted by center residents with images of bees, flowers and nature.

Every week the women go out to check the hives to see how the honey production is going and to make sure everything is working as it should.

Mary Nelson arrived at the Anchor Center in early February of this year and began working with the bees as soon as they arrived for the year. Nelson left the Anchor Center two weeks ago, but she returns to visit when it’s time to check the hives.

“I take great pride in telling people that I do beekeeping, and a lot of people are interested in it,” Nelson said. “I really like doing it, so as long as (the bees) are there, I’ll be there too.”

As she learned more about beekeeping, Nelson taught other Anchor residents. She says she is happy to have the opportunity to come back to continue helping the bees and to see her friends from the centre.

“Working with bees is surprisingly relaxing, and it’s really nice to be in nature,” Nelson said. “You just have to watch (bees) and how they interact with each other, and learn what to look for with them. They’re pretty cute too. They are really cute and fluffy. It’s really relaxing.

Jessica McDanniel has been at the Anchor Center since June and has worked with the beekeeping program since her arrival.

McDanniel said she also finds beekeeping relaxing and plans to tend to her own hives after leaving the centre, which she is expected to do in October.

“It’s different. Every time I go there I see something new,” McDanniel said. “I would love to try it myself. I don’t know if I would ever accomplish this, but it’s quite a fun activity and I want to learn and be able to do it someday, especially for free honey.

The women are now preparing to harvest this year’s honey crop from their hives. It should be ready in the next few weeks.

Once the honey has been harvested, the women at the anchoring center will decide what to do with it. Some will be kept for use at the center, and the rest will be donated to an organization chosen by the residents. In previous years, honey has been donated to the Hawkeye Area Community Action Program.

McDanniel said she was thrilled to harvest the honey and see the results of the work she put in throughout the year.

“It taught me to be patient,” she said. “Time passes and if you are patient, things will actually happen. You can achieve great things just by working at it.

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