Featured photo: Blue Ridge Community College Sustainability Committee member and Small Business Center Director Ben Smith holds the first harvest of honey in front of the campus hives (Photo by Rich Keen, Marketing and Communications Dept.)
Emily Gill, Marketing and Communications Dept.
In March 2023, the Blue Ridge Community College Sustainability Committee brought two beehives, or apiaries, onto campus. Only eight months later they are celebrating the growth of the hives from two to four and the first harvest of honey.
Blue Ridge Community College was certified as a bee-friendly campus by Bee Campus USA in 2017. As such, the College works to support pollinators through a pollinator garden and minimize hazards like neonicotinoid pesticides. However, the College did not host any beehives until earlier this year.
The idea to bring bees to campus sparked in the autumn of 2022 when sustainability committee member and Small Business Center Director Ben Smith met a local volunteer beekeeper, Will Garvey.
Garvey volunteered to provide the two initial hives and manage them for a year as a trial run. To determine the best location for the hives, Garvey and Smith walked the property with Dr. Scott Queen, Dr. Chad Merrill and Rachel Meriwether. It was decided to situate them near the College’s greenhouse, away from the activity of campus.
When it came time to bring the bees to Blue Ridge, Smith and Garvey moved the hives before sunrise. Then they waited for several months along with the rest of the sustainability committee, to see if the hives would settle into their new home.
The bees did take to their new environment, which includes stands welded by Blue Ridge students and a bear fence donated by Garvey. The two hives eventually swarmed, or reproduced, to form new colonies outside of the hives. Garvey then brought in two new hives for them, bringing the total up to four.
Smith said one of the hives is going strong while the other three are still growing.
“The hives are a new way for the College to be committed to environmental sustainability,” he said. “We’re actively fostering these hives to help the pollinators give back to the landscape.”
Beyond the environmental benefits, it’s also special to provide a place for the bees to thrive.
“It’s a neat thing to have a production of something – to have honey at the end of the year that came from College property,” said Smith.
The honey harvested was donated to the Blue Ridge Community College Education Foundation who in turn distributed the honey to friends of the College.
Learn more about Blue Ridge and Bee Campus USA at www.blueridge.edu/about-blue-ridge/bee-campus.