City Bees

June 24, 2011

Person in bee suit takes care of beehives on roof

GW biology professor Hartmut Doebel takes care of the beehives on top of Lisner Hall.

June 24, 2011 

Fans of Founding Farmers, the Foggy Bottom restaurant known for its fresh, local and sustainably produced food, now have something new to buzz about. In partnership with GW, Founding Farmers will open the largest known restaurant-owned urban apiary (bee colony) in the nation.

Founding Farmers installed six beehives on the roof of Lisner Hall, two blocks from the restaurant. “This urban apiary is a natural extension of Founding Farmers’ mission to minimize its impact on the environment through sustainable practices,” said Dan Simons, B.B.A. ’92, who is principal of VSAG, the restaurant consulting and management firm for Founding Farmers. “Not only do we love being able to harvest our own honey to supplement our restaurant’s usage, but we are proud to partner with GW—a powerhouse in the world of education—on a project like this.”

Although there are other urban apiaries within the D.C. area, including some owned by restaurants, the Founding Farmers’ apiary at GW is the largest in the Washington metropolitan region. The six hives atop Lisner Hall will join four other GW-owned hives. While the hives won’t yield honey immediately, GW’s biology department will use them for research in the meantime—specifically, analyzing the pollen the bees bring back and tracking the exact flowers the bees visit.

GW researchers will also study honeybee parasites and will develop a bee behavior lab module for an introductory biology course for majors.

“We are pleased to partner with Founding Farmers in this exciting new endeavor,” said Peg Barratt, dean of GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. “This venture provides an opportunity to not only further expand the university’s research goals and enhance our students’ educational experiences, but play an active role in encouraging local sustainability and green living.”

In its first year, the Founding Farmers’ apiary may produce 10 pounds of honey per hive, but by the end of the second year, in 2012, each hive may produce between 20 and 120 pounds of honey. Founding Farmers will use the honey in dishes served at the restaurant and for small-production bottling.

In addition to creating the apiary, Founding Farmers also established a $5,000 scholarship that will be awarded to a GW undergraduate biology student who will oversee the apiary for the next year. The scholarship is the second that Founding Farmers has created for the university. Earlier this year, the restaurant established a $5,000 Scholarship for Sustainable Hospitality, which is awarded to a student attending the GW School of Business.