Many of us have seen or experienced the therapeutic support that animals can give, especially for those with disabilities. Engaging with animals can promote healing, and it can even help build community. But did you know that beekeeping can provide emotional support and relief for veterans with PTSD and anxiety?
There are several organizations that teach veterans how to keep bees. Operated out of Sparks, Nevada, Bees4Vets helps military veterans and first responders living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) through beekeeping in their local communities. The program’s goal is to support and train veterans and first responders so that they can develop the interest and skills necessary to participate in beekeeping as a hobby.
University of Minnesota Bee Veterans program provides free beekeeping education for its veterans. This program was founded in honor of veteran and beekeeper, Michael Roche, who believed strongly in the therapeutic benefits of beekeeping for returning vets. Through hands-on training, veterans gain recreational and professional skills by working with the honey bees. The program provides the materials and training necessary to making beekeeping an important part of veterans’ lives.
Similarly, in Manchester, New Hampshire, Hives for Heroes empowers veterans by focusing on honey bee conservation, suicide prevention, and a healthy transition from service. This program provides a safe haven for veteran beekeepers, where beekeeping is a major component of their recreation therapy to help relieve post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety.
West Virginia’s Beekeeping Program allows the public to sample and purchase the honey produced by veterans when shopping at the West Virginia Grown Country Store. Likewise, Golden Prairie Honey Farms, located in Manhattan, Kansas, supports veterans in farming. Every cent from the sale of this honey sustains their training.
These programs teach hands-on beekeeping skills for veterans with all levels of beekeeping experience. If you are interested in starting a beekeeping program, the American Beekeeping Federation (ABF) is an excellent resource. ABF, which has a seat on the National Honey Board, prides itself on community and education and is a source for the latest in best practices and bee health, and their resources and programming provides something for everyone.