Honeybee hives were introduced to the A-B Tech Asheville Campus in 2016 when three instructors who happened to be beekeepers decided to establish a campus apiary. English instructor Erik Moellering was part of the original team, along with now-retired Biology instructor Russ Palmeri and Sustainability instructor Josh Littlejohn, who has since left the college. All were excited about the opportunity to restore the threatened honeybee population and the educational opportunities the apiary would provide through bee yard tours and STEM presentations.
“From an agricultural perspective, honey bees are integral pollinators who currently face a variety of environmental threats. High among these threats are pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids and other pests and diseases,” said Moellering. “The honey bee colony, best classified as a ‘superorganism,’ is a biological marvel. The level of coordination and communication and the biological means the bees use to achieve this is truly magnificent.”
Moelllering tends to the hives regularly and they are protected from bears and other wildlife by an electric fence.
Because of the complexity of the honey bee colony, the apiary had the potential to involve a variety of other disciplines beyond Biology, such as Mathematics (comb geometry and navigational techniques), Social Sciences (colony communication and reproduction), and Humanities (cultural role of the honey bee throughout history),” Moellering said.
“As an English instructor, I’d be remiss if I neglected to mention that the honey bee colony is ‘poetic’ in the truest sense of the word: prismatic, mystifying, and urgently alive. Thoreau wrote, ‘The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams,’ and this brief statement captures well the reverence and humility felt by those willing to care for the honey bee. Oh, and one may also get stung. There’s a lesson in that,” he said.
The bees began producing honey in 2017.
Early College Beekeeping Club has beehives on campus too!
Since 2019, the Buncombe County Early College Beekeeping Club has managed its own beehives on the campus of A-B Tech. Every year, approximately 30 beekeeping club members learn about bee biology, conduct weekly hive inspections, harvest, sell honey to staff and students, and make beeswax products, including candles and lip balm. The club helps students apply biology and agriculture concepts, build entrepreneurship skills, and create a welcoming atmosphere for EC students to experience beekeeping.