Sustainability the sweet way: honey bees

Mason’s beehives produce honey for dining halls and a future business venture

By Claire Underwood, Staff Writer

Since 2013, Mason has been part of the Honey Bee Initiative, a project that helps educate people about ways to help sustain honey bees and their resources. This on-campus project was founded by Professors Germán Perilla and Lisa Gring-Pemble.

The collection of beehives on Mason’s campus is just one of 50 in the northern Virginia area. These apiaries are designed to boost honeybee numbers to make up for the extreme decrease in population that occurred in recent years.

The number of beehives in Virginia have dropped by two-thirds since 1970. In 2012, the College of Science and the School of Business partnered to educate both students and the public about bees and sustainability, as well as to research ways to protect the species.

“There are really many benefits to having an apiary on campus,” Gring-Pemble said. “Honey is one benefit and Sodexo will be serving it in the dining halls this Spring. Another benefit is that it helps Mason achieve its commitment to the United Nations Sustainability Goals. Mason is a signatory of the UN Global Compact and to UNPRME [Principles of Responsible Management]. As such, we are dedicated to addressing sustainable development goals.”

The university also offers beekeeping courses that are open to all students. These courses are meant to introduce students to the industry of sustainable beekeeping, as well as how to use beekeeping as a tool for development. Environmental and community groups are also able to tour the apiaries.

“We want to be part of the solution,” said Gring-Pemble, regarding the declining honey bee population. “The integration of our programs across campus, the region, and world provide a unique multidisciplinary, challenge-driven approach to learning that offers all Mason students and community members the opportunity to see the role of business in creating a sustainable world.”

Mason students are also working to move the Honey Bee Initiative into a business practice. Some students have begun to create single serving pods for tea infused with honey from the campus apiaries. They are still in the process of determining how to market this new product.

The Honey Bee Initiative has a large impact on the entire northern Virginia area. The program is in the process of placing beehives on landfills to create new habitats for the bees and hopefully lead to reproduction and a greater number of pollinators.

Photos Courtesy of Evan Cantwell/ Mason Creative Services