Local is the “Buzz”-word for AU’s Own WONK Honey

from the Office of Sustainability newsletter, October 2012.

Wonk Honey

Photo courtesy Annie Lyon

This semester, the AU Beekeeping Society celebrated two milestones – becoming an officially recognized student organization (although an intrepid group of student beekeepers has been meeting since January), and harvesting the first-ever batch of “WONK Honey” from AU’s campus beehives. The Society seeks to spread knowledge about the importance of bees and beekeeping through educational sessions on bee biology, bees in religion and culture, hands-on beekeeping, and other topics. A peer-learning model allows each club member to take ownership of what they want to learn.

This semester’s activities began with the harvest – a modest 15 lbs. to start, although AU’s four beehives can produce as much as 250 – 400 lbs. of honey each year if all goes well. The honey is placed in jars and shared among a 40-member honey co-op of students, faculty, and staff who all work on tending the hives. A bit of honey was also donated to DCist, so they could use local DC-produced honey in their attempt to recreate the White House’s honey ale (read about their attempt here), and a jar was entered in the DC State Fair in September. “We scored remarkably well for having such new hives and the judges loved our honey!” remarked Chase Freeman, a senior in SIS.
The hives have many benefits beyond supporting local agriculture. The bees pollinate AU’s campus arboretum, as well as a few kilometers around the campus as well. “Besides the ecological services that bees provide, the campus community gains exposure to bees and the culture of beekeeping,” says SIS PhD student Caroline Chumo. “I’m proud of newcomers who boldly pick up their first frame covered in bees,” adds junior Biology major and Society President Eli McComb. “My most proud moment was when I got the entire Society to look for potential nectar spots by shaking my butt in a waggle dance fashion.”

In addition to the student and staff beekeepers, the apiary, located on the second floor of the Mary Graydon Center on the north courtyard green roof, gets many visitors throughout the year, including groups of local elementary students on Campus Beautification Day. “It was absolutely great to see our campus become a place where the larger DC community can learn about sustainability”, says faculty adviser Eve Bratman. “It is a powerful thing to see such a diverse mix of people learning in hands-on ways together.”

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