Why I Keep Bees

Here’s something I bet you didn’t know. I, Penelope Norton, am a beekeeper! And not just in the sense that I “work at The Hive” – I keep actually honeybees.

As a child, I grew up outside. I grew up going to nature camps at Huntley Meadows Park, going fishing with my grandfather, making mud cakes with my sisters. Nature fascinated me and bugs and insects were never something from which I shied away. So as a teen, when I started gardening at Mount Vernon Estates as my summer job, I became enthralled with the beehives there. In college at James Madison University, I got into the local sustainability and farm-to-table movements. I was able to learn the importance of our local ecosystems, farming responsibly, and what eating locally can do for our bodies and planet. All this to say, at age 20, I became determined that I would keep beehives one day.

Fast forward to the last four years and that is exactly what I have been doing. When I tell people, they immediately assume that I am in it for the honey. Though I have to admit my honey is absolutely amazing, that is a very small reason for keeping bees. While local and raw honey is known to help combat allergies and is amazing for you, and mine is as local and raw as it gets, participating in bee keeping is bigger than me and feeding my sweet tooth. And I certainly don’t do it for my safety. Please see the picture below of when I stupidly opened my hive without my protective gear on. I think Darwin called that Natural Selection!



Plain and simple, bees are critical for our food production, and they are in short supply. “Three out of four crops across the globe producing fruits or seeds for human use…depends, at least in part, on pollinators…supporting the production of 87 of the leading food crops worldwide.” (FAO) Needless to say, large-scale commercial agriculture relies heavily on actually renting out mass amounts of beehives for their pollination season. While this makes the world go round as we know it, it is not ideal. Rented beehives are in fact supporting farming industries such as almonds, blueberries, and apples.

Picture this, semi trucks are literally loaded with thousands of honeybee hives and are then driven from one pollinating season to another. The same bees that pollinated your apples in the early spring in Virginia are out in California by late summer pollinating your almonds, having made stops in between. All this travel exposes them to tons of herbicides and pesticides, which are taking a serious toll on the life span of a beehive. Between the 2018 to 2019 season there was a 40 percent beehive loss in the United States alone. (NPR) Clearly, we need a more disbursed, and locally-based, population of bees in America.

So why do I keep bees? I love, that in my small way, I can add back to the number of pollinators in my area. With beehive colonies decreasing every year I want to be a part of an effort to replace the hives we are losing. Our food production depends on it. If you live down by the Mount Vernon area my bees could be helping pollinate your yard and home gardens!

After reading all this you may be wondering what you can be doing to help the situation. If you have become inspired to keep bees, reach out! I am happy to help you get started. If beekeeping isn’t for you (see above picture of my swollen eye), here are some other ways to help!

  • • If not doing so already, start switching to buying organic food, as that will minimize the pesticides and herbicides in food production.
  • • Be mindful of what you are spraying in your own yards to combat weeds and pests. You could be contributing to harming honeybees and other helpful pollinators alike. (Bee Friendly herb and pesticides)
  • • Buy local honey at your local farmers market or at Let’s Meat on the Avenue in Del Ray (on Instagram @letsmeat_delray). Putting money back in the pockets of beekeepers will help contribute to expanding the amount of beehives they have!
  • • If you can’t make it to the farmer’s market consider being part of a local farms’ CSA. When you support local farmers you are supporting better farming practices, which in turn helps the bees!
  • • Plant bee and pollinator-friendly plants in your yard. As nature slips away to make room for more business and apartment buildings, giving pollinators more to munch on is a great way to give back. (Click here and scroll to page two of this guide for a list of bee-friendly plants for your yard.)

I may have left you with more questions than answers and if that is the case please reach out! I am happy to talk with you about it! In the meantime support your community by supporting local and otherwise, enjoy some pictures of me with my bees!



Stay safe and healthy!


  • The latest from Penelope
Truly a local girl, Penelope was born and raised in Alexandria, Virginia. Penelope graduated from James Madison University (GO DUKES!) with a degree in International Relations and is now getting her Masters in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. While she never expected to work retail, she has found a second home in her Hive and Shoe Hive family, and has discovered the shoe and clothing addiction she never thought she had. An avid traveler, if not working or going to classes, Penelope is surely on a plane to a country she has yet to see.

Heard the buzz? The Shoe Hive & The Hive are a pair of luxury boutiques in Old Town Alexandria. Featuring both big name designers like Rag & Bone and Stuart Weitzman and smaller brands like AGL and L'Agence, our unique selection and impeccable service are what set us apart.


The Shoe Hive                         The Hive
127 S. Fairfax Street               301 Cameron Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
              Alexandria, VA 22314

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