Four hives of Italian honeybees arrived on the Washington, D.C. Mount Vernon campus of George Washington University in June, donated by the beekeeping cooperative Sweet Virginia.
Why have bees on campus?
The inspiration for the project came from the installation of beehives at the White House, which prompted student, Melissa Eddison, to write a proposal to establish beehives on the campus as part of the sustainable food and gardening program of the student group Food Justice Alliance. By coincidence, Assistant Vice President, Paula Lawley, is an amateur beekeeper who is on the board of Sweet Virginia, so the project was welcomed. The gardeners and students on campus and in the surrounding area will be pleased, as one effect of the arrival of the bees is expected to be bigger and brighter flowers. Ms. Lawley reports that George Washington kept bees at his Mount Vernon estate, and his favorite breakfast was cornmeal cakes with honey. “The hives are a wonderful way to honor the university’s namesake.”
How are the honeybees doing?
According to Sweet Virginia founder, Dan Price, “The bees settled into the Mt. Vernon Campus like they owned it. They immediately made themselves at home and located lots of nectar sources. It’s a perfect location…a small glade next to a little creek with plenty of old trees and beautiful, landscaped (many interesting flowers) homes nearby. The honey from there will be delicious.”
About 120,000 bees live in four hives, each about 2.5 feet wide and 3 feet wide stacked on top of each other. The queens live and lay eggs in the bottom boxes, where workers are busy raising the baby bees. The honey is stored in the top boxes before it is harvested each year in the summer. For the first year the bees will be busy getting settled, and putting in wax honey combs, so there will not be as much honey, but eventually each of the four hives could yield up to one hundred pounds of honey.
Will bee stings be a problem?
According to Amanda Jo Formica, one of the beekeepers for this summer, the community shouldn’t be too worried about bee stings. She goes on to explain that the queen stays in the hive laying eggs, and the male drones who mate with the queen cannot sting, and die after mating. The worker bees keep busy collecting pollen, building honeycombs, and making the honey. “Honeybees are very friendly. Unlike wasps, which can sting multiple times, a honeybee can only sting once and then it dies, so they are not quick to do so.”
What will happen to all that lovely sweet honey?
Sweet Virginia will collect all the honey, strain it, and make up bottles and gift boxes. All of their honey is given away to anyone who makes a donation to one of the charities they support. The whole donation goes to charity, as Sweet Virginia covers all the costs of producing and distributing the honey.
Some bee and honey facts shared by Sweet Virginia.
Ten flowers can yield one drop of nectar, which is one trip for one bee. It takes ten drops of nectar to yield one drop of honey.
A honeybee flies about 13,000, or four times across the Unites States, to make one pound of honey.
There are different colors and flavors of honey depending on the flowering plants from which the bees collect nectar.
Honeybees eat pollen to get protein, so field bees collect it and carry it back to the hive.
The pollen which sticks to their hairs and antennae is carried to other plants they visit, helping those plants to reproduce.
When bees are around, more and bigger fruits and vegetables are produced by orchards and gardens.
Helping the bees survive.
Honeybees are struggling, and in many areas have been completely wiped out. There have been numerous studies about the mysterious disappearance of bees, so these efforts to protect and increase the number of bee hives is vital.
Sources: George Washington University. Sweet Virginia.