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On Earth Day at Mason, a celebration of bees

May 2, 2018   /   by Natalie Kuadey

The Honey Bee Initiative's apiary at the Roberts House on the Fairfax Campus, is refurbished and was on display on Earth Day, April 22. Photo by Christopher Bobo.

If you thought an allergy to bee stings would stop anyone from being on the frontlines in efforts to save the world’s most important pollinators, think again. Lisa Gring-Pemble’s passion and commitment to promoting honey bee sustainability pushes her into fields—with her EpiPen—to be among the bees and facilitate research, despite her allergy.

“Bees pollinate one in every three bites of food that we eat,” said Gring-Pemble, a co-founder of George Mason University’s Honey Bee Initiative. “A world without bees really means a world without food, and that’s a food security issue.”

To celebrate George Mason’s commitment to this aspect of environmental protection, the Honey Bee Initiative’s refurbished apiary—a collection of 20 beehives near the Roberts House on the Fairfax Campus—re-opened on Earth Day, April 22.

The apiary was moved from the top of the Rappahannock River Parking Deck to the Roberts House in 2014.

“We realized we weren’t educating people on what a pollinator friendly habitat looked like,” Gring-Pemble said, “so we started raising funds so people could learn more about that, and this was the celebration of that re-opening.”

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The apiary re-opening celebration welcomed anyone with an interest in bees and the Honey Bee Initiative, a joint project of Mason’s School of Business and College of Science. Faculty from both schools joined Mason President Ángel Cabrera, School of Business Dean Maury Peiperl, and College of Science Dean Peggy Agouris at a ribbon cutting.

They thanked Bayer’s Feed-A-Bee program grant, Merrifield Garden Center, and the Morton and Spapperi Family Foundation for making the renovation possible.

Cabrera emphasized the importance of “empowering people to make a difference” and pointed out the students in attendance.

“Students are vital to the success of the program,” Gring-Pemble said, “and we’re looking for those that are engaged and committed long-term to this initiative.”

Such as junior business management major Soulin Reyes.

“You don’t acknowledge things you don’t know,” she said. “It’s important we get more students involved in these programs to help the planet.”

Germán Perilla, the Honey Bee Initiative’s co-founder who teaches beekeeping classes at Mason, also emphasized the importance of bees in maintaining food security.  

“Bees are responsible as pollinators,” he said. “If you respect life, you must respect pollinators.”

Those attending the celebration had the opportunity to taste and purchase honey from around the world, while also getting hands-on experience in beekeeping, in a beekeeper’s protective suit, of course.

“What we want people to take away from this initiative is that there is an intimate connection between human survival and bee survival, and that there should be a foregone conclusion that we have a responsibility to take care of pollinators,” Gring-Pemble said.

Photo by Christopher Bobo.