Apiculture is an ancient practice between bees and beings that dates back to ancient Egypt. Over the centuries, notable figures have been lured by the sweetness that beekeeping offers. There are other interesting posts recounting famous beeks from the beginning of recorded history, so today let’s freshen up the list. Let’s shed light on some famous modern beekeepers.
When you look at beekeeping in the last century, it’s interesting to note that the number of people involved in agriculture has declined sharply during this time. In fact, between 1910 and 2000, census data shows that the number of farmers, and farm workers in the U.S. dropped from around 16 percent of the population to less than 2%! Beekeepers are included in this sector of the populous, and it’s safe to say that the number of beekeepers dropped in a similar fashion. That means there’s an even smaller number of famous people who might have come into contact with beekeeping during their lifetime, which makes this list of people even more exceptional. Enjoy!
9 Famous Modern Beekepers
1. Maria von Trapp (1905-1987)
Those who are familiar with the wonderful musical The Sound of Music will most certainly recognize the name Maria von Trapp. What you might not know is that Mrs. von Trapp was not just a wonderfully sweet and talented heroine, she was actually a real person! While some of the details of the her struggles against the Nazi’s are dramatized, the von Trapp story is real.
Mrs. von Trapp migrated to the USA in 1939 along with her family. Shortly afterward, the family settled in Vermont and established a farm which also served as a music camp when the family was not on tour. The farm later became a lodge which still operates today. It was during this time, that Mrs. von Trapp took up the practice of beekeeping. If you’d like to learn more about the true story of the von Trapp family just click here!
2. Sir Edmund Hillary (1919 – 2008)
While his name may not be immediately recognizable to you younger folks, many of those over the age of 50 will know this tall (he was 6’ 5”), gangly man.. He lives forever as the first Western man to successfully reach the summit of Mount Everest; a feat for which he was later dubbed “Sir Edmund Hillary”.
If he were still alive, Sir Edmund Hillary might offer some of the credit of this successful expedition to beekeeping! After all, it was the flexible, seasonal schedule involved with beekeeping that allowed Sir Edmund to pursue his real passion of mountain climbing. At the height of his mountaineering career, Sir Edmund Hillary was a household name and media darling. In spite of his enormous success in exploration, he remained humble. In his later years, “Ed’ as he was apt to encourage people to call him, spent most of his time involved in philanthropy.
3. Sylvia Plath (1932 -1962)
Any fan of poetry will undoubtedly know our next beekeeper as one of the most famous writers of the 20th century. She was so influential that she was awarded the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for her work The Collected Poems.
Ms. Plath was thrust into a life of beekeeping almost at birth. Her father was a noted entomologist (bug scientist) who was fascinated by bees and even wrote a book on bumblebees. Of course this interest lead Mr. Plath and his daughter to the art of beekeeping. Plath draws on her beekeeping experience in a work titled: “The Bee Meeting.”
Her life wasn’t all sweet though. Ms. Plath was plagued by mental health issues including depression. In fact, she attempted to commit suicide several times before ultimately succeeding on February 11, 1963 at the young age of 30.
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4. Steve Vai (1960 – Present)
Mr Vai is surprisingly one of the only famous musicians on our list! Rock and Roll fans will most certainly know him as he has laid down licks with rock legends like Frank Zappa, David Lee Roth, and Whitesnake. In addition, Steve is also a successful solo artist which has resulted in three Grammy’s and sales of more than 15 million records!
In spite of all that success, Steve has found peace in a more grounded lifestyle which includes a love of beekeeping. In fact, Steve has been known to spend time at home harvesting and processing honey with his wife and kids to give to family friends. What I admire more than his success and ability to stay grounded, is his love for others. Steve recently announced his charity called Make a Noise Foundation. The charity is focused on providing music education for underprivileged youth.
5. Martha Stewart (1941 – Present)
Ms. Stewart is the undisputed Queen of Homemaking thanks in large part to her successful television series, books, magazines and blog. What you might not know is that Ms. Stewart is also a successful model and financial guru. I have to say, it’s really hard for me not to be a little bit envious of all that talent!
As if she didn’t have enough going for her already, Ms. Stewart is also an avid beekeeper. It’s probably not hard to believe since she’s just about the most craft-o-licious human alive! When asked, she’s stated that she’s probably a gardener first and beekeeper second. It was her desire to have a great garden that lead her to become interested in backyard beekeeping. She’s written a lot of great stuff on beekeeping, so if you’re interested in taking up the hobby be sure to read her blogs.
6. Peter Fonda (1940 – Present)
Peter Fonda is surrounded by fame. He’s the son of famous actor Henry Fonda, and brother to political activist, and actress Jane Fonda. Aside from acting, Mr. Fonda is known for his progressive, and decidedly countercultural, drug-and-motorcycle friendly lifestyle.
When this self proclaimed “bad boy” isn’t busy riding his motorcycle or engaging in political activism of his own, you might find him beekeeping! Fonda credit’s his interest in part to his involvement with the film Ulee’s Gold. I highly recommend this for those who haven’t seen it.
7. Morgan Freeman (1937 – Present)
Mr. Freeman probably doesn’t need any introduction to anyone who has seen more than a couple movies over the last 10 years. There are so many examples of his work as he’s one of the most successful and prolific actors alive today. A few of my favorites are Million Dollar Baby, Shawshank Redemption, and The Bucket List.
Mr. Freeman has only recently become a beekeeper. He explained in a recent interview on the Tonight Show how he received his bees. Freeman is known for his passionate promotion of environmental preservation, so it’s no wonder that he has dedicated a portion of his ranch in Mississippi to caring for bees and doing his part to combat the serious decline of this important pollinator.
8. Scarlett Johansson (1984 – Present)
Scarlett Johansson is a singer, model, and American movie actress. She’s starred in a number of high earn box office smash hits, the most recent of which is the Avengers series.
Ms. Johansson, and her ex-husband Ryan Reynolds received a beehive from Samuel L. Jackson as a wedding gift in 2008. Jackson later stated that he was inspired to send bees after Johansson expressed a lot of passion about the decline of the honey bee population. Jackson remembers her saying, “Sam, the bees are dying, we need to do something!”
9. Maryam Henein (1973 – Present)
Our next famous beekeeper probably doesn’t need any introduction! As a reader of this blog, you likely already know her many achievements. Henein is an Egyptian-Canadian and a native of Montreal. She has experience working as an investigative journalist, film producer, writer, and host. In addition to her duties here at HoneyColony, Maryam is probably best known as co-director of the movie Vanishing of the Bees. She’s also been involved with many other film projects. Ms. Henein has dedicated her life to drawing parallels between autoimmune sufferers and honeybees as she believes both are environmental indicators.
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