Mason adds beekeeping to list of sustainability efforts

The new apiary can be found on the grassy area between Patriot Circle and Shenandoah Parking Deck. (Photo by Dakota Cunningham)
The new apiary can be found on the grassy area between Patriot Circle and Shenandoah Parking Deck. (Photo by Dakota Cunningham)

A new honeybee apiary is now housed at George Mason University as part of a project to improve campus sustainability.

Kathleen Curtis, executive assistant to the dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, presented the project to the Director of the Office of Sustainability.

Curtis was assisted by graduate student German Perilla.

“We needed to identify and rally the support of faculty members with expertise involving beekeeping and sustainability,” Curtis said. “That’s where [Perilla] came in. You can’t get much better than [Perilla].”

Despite initial concerns of mischievous students and those with allergies, the project received the sustainability department’s approval, as well as a grant from the Patriot Green Fund.

“Not only did we receive encouragement and support, but no office acted as a roadblock,” Curtis said. “They were all very supportive, which I thought was amazing.”

Curtis first became interested in bees and beekeeping as a young child in northern California.

“I fell in love with all things that crawl [and] hop and glide,” Curtis said. “I saw a bee tree once and became very curious. I decided at a very young age that someday I’d learn to manage bees.”

Curtis got the idea to start an apiary on campus in reaction to the ongoing decline in bee populations and American dependence on pollinated crops for food.

“Consideration of our world and our connection to it can increase because of the apiary,” Curtis said. “If we want to continue our way of eating, we need to find a way to keep the bees going.”

Curtis explained that local hives produce stronger bees that live longer and that student involvement could help increase hive populations.

“A lot of people are interested in bees, but a lot more do not know how to find out about them,” Curtis said. “Since Mason has a commitment to sustainability, we should have an apiary here. It’s a natural fit.”

Perilla, a graduate student in the zoo and aquarium leadership program who has worked with bees and pollination in Columbia, was integral to the management of the apiary. Perilla insists that working with bees can increase knowledge through many disciplines including project development, business administration, conservation and conflict resolution.

“We hope that the Mason community takes full advantage of this unique opportunity,” Perilla said.

Both Curtis and Perilla hope that the apiary will not only improve pollination in the area, but foster an attitude of sustainability on Mason’s campus as well as in the surrounding community.

“Sustainability is harmony, equilibrium between man and nature, and all species should thrive,” Perilla said. “The bees will determine in a tangible way if our behaviors and actions are in agreement with our idea of sustainability.”

Perilla plans to raise strong bees in order to make them available for everyone at Mason.

“The ultimate goal is to find permanent support from the university to be able to develop the full potential of what bees and beekeeping offer to our community,” Perilla said.

For Curtis, the bee apiary is more than just a sustainability effort, it is her passion.

“I am amazed by the bees’ simple complexity,” Curtis said. “The way the hive is run, the way they manage themselves. I don’t think I will ever learn enough about them.”

The apiary is located near Patriot Circle and Shenandoah Parking Deck.

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