GW, Founding Farmers Partner to Host Beehives

April 19, 2012

Close up of bee

Italian honeybees are making a buzz on the George Washington University campus.

For the second year, GW has partnered with the Founding Farmers restaurant to host eight hives of honeybees on the Lisner Hall rooftop.

“We are looking forward to continuing our partnership with Founding Farmers, which allows our students and faculty an opportunity to research and learn more about bees and the honey they produce,” said Diane Knapp, co-chair of the Urban Food Task Force.

And the research has already begun. On Wednesday, Hartmut Doebel, assistant professor of biological sciences, demonstrated how to mark the bees with small dots so that they can be tracked as they fly around the city. To complete the marking process, Dr. Doebel trapped them with a marking tube, then positioned them to apply a dot on the thorax with a non-toxic marker.

The marked bees were then released to fly around the district. It’s hoped the public will report sightings of the marked bees—more will be added in the coming weeks—so that Dr. Doebel and students can determine the foraging ranges for bees in a city environment. “Do they really fly far away as has been reported in the literature—up to more than five kilometers for the record-holders?” he said.

For four weeks, anyone who spots and tweets a picture of the marked bees to @FFBees will receive a $10 gift card to Founding Farmers and will be entered in a drawing for a chance to win a $500 gift card.

Even more important than the research, said Dr. Doebel, may be educating students and community members that bees are docile.

“They do not pose any danger, nor are they vicious and about to sting at any time we come close to them,” said Dr. Doebel, who has been working with bees at GW for the last two years and learned beekeeping during graduate school in Berlin. “Quite the contrary. They sure can sting, but will only if they truly feel threatened or have to defend their brood.”

Because the hives are in their first year, the bees aren’t expected to yield mass quantities of honey this year. Still, Founding Farmers will feature menu items that highlight honey as an ingredient, and educational centers in the waiting areas of their Potomac, Md., and downtown D.C. restaurants will feature educational material on bees.

“The urban apiary has been a key way for Founding Farmers to continue pushing ourselves to be as sustainable as possible,” said Dan Simons, B.B.A. ’92, principal of VSAG, the restaurant consulting and management firm for Founding Farmers. “We are so proud to further our commitment to community engagement through this partnership with GW.