Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Photographic Journey to Experience Beekeeping Abroad

Renee Ricciardi gave a delightful presentation at my local bee club today. She is a Boston-based beekeeper and a photographer. She was also the recipient of the 2013 Morton Godine Travel Fellowship. Her project involved traveling 6 months (over the course of 2 years) and photographing bees, beekeepers, and apiaries all over Italy.

Her presentation was primarily a showing of photos and talking about each one. It's difficult to capture the things she said because they require the context of the photos. However, I particularly liked her stories related to Il Pungiglione -- The Big Sting. Basically, The Big Sting is a social cooperative that takes in people who are either serving prison sentences or who are on parole and teaches them to keep bees. Most of these people have offenses related to drugs, alcohol, and prostitution, and they find that beekeeping is a wonderful tool to heal these people and help them grow skills and behaviors they will need to function successfully in the real world.

Another favorite story was about how one of the inmates in Il Pungiglione showed her how to blow smoke rings with a hive smoker. I wish the photo was available for viewing online. I was really impressed!

Her stories about beekeeping in Italy were so interesting, especially the ones pointing out differences in beekeeping practices. One of these differences has to do with how they take notes -- they write directly on the hive. Another interesting difference is how they go about trapping wasps. Over there, wasps are a huge problem. To get rid of them, beeks cover boards or even cardboard with sticky glue used for trapping rats. Then they place pieces of fresh prosciutto, which is such a delicacy, on the board to attract these carnivorous pests. As wasps come to feast, they're trapped in the glue.

Renee conscientiously pointed out that her project is an art project and not a documentary. At least one photo was carefully compose and directed. One of the reasons she was inspired to do this project was Italy's temporary (2-year) ban on the use of neonics in corn. She goal was not to point out how bees are dying, but rather something idealistic about bees and beekeeping, to show how bees and people can live together.

You can view some of her photos (she showed us way many more) on her website. She also has Twitter, Instagram, and FaceBook accounts that your can follow. I neglected to get the account names, but you can look them up if you search for her name.


  1. Wow, you always have the most interesting speakers at your bee meetings! That's a really cool video! I love the stories about prisoners and parolees keeping bees. There's the effort at O'Hare airport and now I know of this one in Italy. Also you had that post about honey tastings in Italy - makes me want to get back there more than ever. Thanks for sharing!

    1. We really are lucky to have such wonderful speakers. I wish you could have seen her full presentation. There were a ton of "behind the scenes" photos that were fascinating from a beekeeping perspective. For example, there was a photo of her photographing bees on a hotel rooftop, and she had to be strapped into a crazy harness contraption just to reach the hives. And she had photos from a honey festival, too.

      I hope you definitely make it to Italy for some honey tastings! That's going into my bucket list, too!


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