This Navy Yard-Based Apiary Is Focused on Mental Health and Mindfulness

During the pandemic, Amelia Mraz and Natasha Pham founded Half Mad Honey. This is their story.

half mad honey

Amelia Mraz (left) and Natasha Pham at their apiary in the Navy Yard / All photographs by Justin James Muir

Half Mad Honey is a Navy Yard-based apiary focused on mental health and mindfulness. Founders Amelia Mraz and Natasha Pham tell us the name is an intentional nod to the Mad Pride movement, which advocates the de-stigmatization of mental illness and improved mental health care. Half Mad Honey’s unique workshops provide healing experiences outside of the typical clinical setting, allowing participants to connect with nature and with each other, while learning to push through fear. Below is their story.

Amelia Mraz: I started beekeeping in 2016, during my senior year at Temple. I never did anything like it in my life — I had always been scared of bees — but something in me wanted to push my comfort zone. I was at a low point with my mental health and found that beekeeping came to be a meditative, peaceful practice. The bees can sense when you’re on edge, so I needed to calm down to be a better­ beekeeper.

Natasha Pham: I saw Amelia’s OKCupid profile when I was looking for a local “honey” in 2019, so I reached out, and we started dating. With that came inheriting a bunch of bees! At the time, I didn’t know how important bees are and how pollination is vital to the planet, but I learned, and we grew the business — we’re now up to 11 hives.

Mraz: Our goal is to bring therapy outside of a clinical setting. At the apiary, you get the therapeutic benefits of being in nature and around others, which has been much needed these past two years. It’s a reason for our name, Half Mad Honey, which is a nod to Mad Pride, the movement started in the early ’90s — and still continuing today — to publicly de-stigmatize mental health.

Pham: We host different workshops, like Reiki, tarot, and “Mead Me in the Apiary” — you suit up, and we open the hive and talk about the importance of honeybees. Then we teach you how to make mead, or honey wine. Being in an apiary can be terrifying for lots of people, but we help people learn to reground. You realize you’re not in imminent danger because you’re in a suit and with professionals — ­that’s “distress tolerance” and mindfulness in action.

Mraz: Beekeeping teaches many lessons: to let things go, that you can’t control everything, and to be resilient. We need bees to survive, but they will survive without us. It has taught me trust — trust in the world, trust in myself, trust in the bees — which I’m able to infuse into the rest of my life.  

Published as “What’s the Buzz?” in the 2023 issue of Be Well Philly.