An exciting new component of our Grow Appalachia program and the Pine Mountain Settlement School farm, is the addition of beekeeping workshops and demonstration hives. For many years bees were kept on campus here at PMSS however, to my knowledge they haven’t been kept since at least the 1970’s. With this being the case, I thought it was high time to bring back the bees. In doing this we carefully planned by building the hives, selecting a proper site and purchasing the equipment necessary to work with the bees. Furthermore we hosted two high quality beekeeping/bee health workshops the first of which was led by Dr. Berry Brosi of Emory University and the second by our state apiarist Dr. Tammy Horn-Potter.
This project which began last October came to fruition a few weeks ago when we purchased five nucs (nucleus colonies) and distributed three of them to grow Appalachia families who were interested and prepared to receive them. Also, two were kept on campus to provide a demonstration component for our bee related workshops, environmental education programing and to help pollinate our crops which supply our kitchen.
When the day arrived to actually pick up the bees from Kelley Beekeeping in Clarkson. Sonny (a local beekeeper/mentor) and I loaded up and headed west on a four hour drive to pick up the bees. On the four hour drive home we quickly noticed that one of the nuc boxes had a small hole somewhere from which bees were escaping. Despite our best efforts to locate the escape way and creative employment of duct tape, several bees per hour (a new unit of measurement for me) kept making their way out. Thankfully the van we were in had really good a/c and vents that aimed directly at the bees which keept them calm and towards the back of the vehicle. Notwithstanding, we had to stop multiple times to let the escapees out and to continue our journey. Upon return to Harlan County, all five nucs were installed without incident and I considered myself none worse for the wear, having learned some practical lessons that can only come from doing.