Aside from the money, the women offer their time and care by taking turns working on the hives and even colorfully painting the hive boxes, which sit beside a field of lavender.
“We really dedicated this space,” Ms. Hellerer said. “We brought seeds to sow and objects we felt were powerful or sacred to honor the space.”
To show their appreciation of the queen bees, they gave each of them a name: Maya, in honor of the late Maya Angelou; Fatima, for the Arabian goddess of the moon; and Hera, after the Greek goddess of marriage.
“It is an amazing learning experience,” Ms. Gunder said, adding that the cooperative “is not about the honey.”
In fact, the honey isn’t for sale.
The group will collect only a small amount of honey from each of the hives once a year. The sweet, sticky substance is distributed among cooperative members to use as they like; many share it with others as a way of educating the public.
“It’s really about what can we do to help, to be involved in helping to mend this problem that we have,” Ms. Gunder said. “It is such a different feeling when you’re connected to your food supply.”
According to an annual but voluntary survey of beekeepers conducted by the USDA, 23 percent of colonies nationwide were lost in 2013; losses of 30.5 percent had been reported just one year earlier. For sustainability, the USDA reports, colony losses should not surpass 18 percent.
“Yearly fluctuations in the rate of losses like these only demonstrate how complicated the whole issue of honeybee heath has become,” said survey co-author Jeff Pettis.
According to Mr. Pettis, factors such as viruses and other pathogens, parasites, nutrition deficiencies due to lack of diversity in pollen sources and the effects of pesticides combine to weaken or destroy bee colonies.
Members of the cooperative said the best way they can help is to inform others about the challenges honeybees face so that they can help spread the message, too, Ms. Hellerer said.
Here are a few ways Hippy Hive Honeybee Cooperative suggests that others in the community can make a difference:
• Grow native plants, which the bees will love.
• Don’t use insecticides containing neonicotinoid, a substance that confuses bees and makes it difficult for them to find their way back to the hive.
• Be respectful of the bees. If you don’t attempt to hurt them, they likely won’t have cause to sting you.
• Keeping bees is not cheap, so support your local beekeeper and buy local honey.
By doing these things, Ms. Hellerer said, the community can help “give bees a chance.”
Cooperative members said they are reaching out to community organizations to host educational opportunities, and have already hosted events at the Peconic Community School.
To find out more about the cooperative and its efforts, visit Facebook and search for Hippy Hive HoneyBee Co-Op.