Philadelphia apiary provides education, therapy

Amelia Mraz founded Half Mad Honey in 2021 after taking a beekeeping class as a senior.

Amelia Mraz, a second-year public health graduate student, inspects the beehive before harvesting honey at Half Mad Honey apiary, located at the Navy Yard on S. 13th Street near Intrepid Avenue, on Feb. 21. | BRIAN MENGINI / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Determined to overcome her fear of bees, Amelia Mraz enrolled in Introduction to Beekeeping at Temple University’s Ambler campus her senior year. 

As she immersed herself in apiculture, she began to learn more about not only bees, but herself.

“I took the class at a time when I was not in a good place in my mental health,” said Mraz, a second-year public health graduate student. “It ended up being a really therapeutic practice for me. It actually taught me confidence, trust, creative problem solving and just to be present and mindful.” 

Wanting to share this mind-opening experience with others, Mraz co-founded Half Mad Honey, an apiary located at the Navy Yard, in March 2021 with her partner, Natasha Pham. Mraz opened HMH to educate people on bees and support mental health awareness through educational, interactive honey bee tours and apiary therapy, where individuals learn mindfulness practices. 

HMH offers beehive tours at the Riverfront near the Navy Yard in the spring, summer and fall, where tourists strap on beekeeping suits, enter the apiary, hold beehive frames and learn about bees and how to interact with them. 

Tours are led by Mraz, Pham and Nicole Rivera Hartery, a beekeeper educator and HMH business partner. 

Rivera Hartery loves teaching tourists about bees and seeing those who were scared of entering the apiary leave with a newfound appreciation for the insects, she said. 

“It helps open up the mind to everyone, as far as who else we are living with on this planet,” Rivera Hartery said. “And it gives you an open mind to the insect world in general — they realize we all have our purpose on this planet, we’re all living together.” 

HMH also offers apiary therapy sessions from May to October, where individuals interact with honeybees to practice coping skills and connect with their bodies. 

Individuals learn to be more patient and mindful of their actions while around the bees, which are practices that can factor into their everyday lives as well, said Pham, co-owner and executive Chief Executive Officer of HMH.

“Be mindful of your step, where you are controlling that anger or anticipation or anxiety to just be present with the bees,” Pham said. 

When Mraz first came to Pham with the idea of opening an apiary for therapeutic purposes, she was skeptical, but after entering the apiary for the first time, she realized how therapeutic beekeeping was, she said. 

After graduating from Temple in 2016, Mraz was not sure what career she wanted to pursue, but knew she wanted to find a way to combine her psychology degree with her newfound beekeeping passion. 

“I had that validation that it’s a practice and mindfulness, and that it has soothing properties, so I knew there was something there,” Mraz said. 

Mraz tended bees in her friend’s backyard in 2018 but needed to expand to a space with more land. She then became a resident beekeeper at The Navy Yard and officially turned this hobby into a business in 2021. 

The journey was worth it for Mraz because she feels HMH has left an impact on many people’s lives through their tours and therapy sessions. 

Mraz loves seeing people utilize the apiary to learn and connect with each other and the bees in new ways, she said. 

“Being able to have them be vulnerable and feel safe with you to release those emotions — it’s a beautiful thing,” Mraz said. 

Mraz hopes to combine her beekeeping and public health background to make HMH a nonprofit and is happy she turned her fear of bees into a career that can benefit others. 

“Finally seeing this vision of yours, like off the ground, It’s been amazing, super worth it,” she said.

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