May 3, 2017

About the Initiative

A collaboration between the School of Business and the College of Science, the Honey Bee Initiative supports honey bee sustainability by providing an innovative education, conducting collaborative research, and establishing community partnerships in our local Northern Virginia region and abroad.

The initiative includes nearly 75 hives in Northern Virginia that help the team research and combat colony collapse disorder and educate students and the local community on sustainable beekeeping practices.

The Fairfax Campus Apiaries were established in 2012 with a Patriot Green Fund grant from Mason’s Office of Sustainability.

Addressing a global crisis

Honey bees are threatened and bee health is critical to human survival. Bees pollinate one-third of the food we eat and are the most important pollinator worldwide. But for reasons including colony collapse disorder, invasive mites (varroa destructor), and pesticides, honey bees are disappearing at an alarming rate. Approximately 90 percent of the wild bee population in North America has died out.

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Inspired by Mason’s vision to be “the best university for the world,” Mason’s Honey Bee Initiative contributes to growing efforts related to honey bee sustainability in the region through:

  • Applied research to combat colony collapse
  • Hands-on teaching about sustainable beekeeping practices and social entrepreneurship
  • Collaborative partnerships to improve the security and sustainability of the Northern Virginia ecosystem


  • Two teaching apiaries serve as demonstration stations for students of all majors, alumni, and the community.
  • We collaborated with communities in the Colombian Andes and Peruvian Amazon to develop social entrepreneurial bee keeping programs preserving the self-sustaining livelihood of several indigenous groups.
  • The City of Fairfax used our apiary as a model to set a beekeeping standard for the city.
  • We partnered with Fairfax County to install apiaries and wildflower fields at the I-95 landfill which will beautify the landfill, improve water quality, and create a natural bee habitat.

The Hives in Action:  HBI Program Elements

Beekeepers at Mason Honey Bee ApiaryThe Honey Bee Initiative promotes multi-disciplinary, experiential, and entrepreneurial approaches to honey bee sustainability. Students from business, humanities, engineering, science, and art collaborate on initiative-related projects. HBI offers opportunities for engaging in scientific research (pollen quality, pests, queen rearing), art projects, innovative teaching and research (artificial insemination, pollen research, beekeeping), community outreach, and study abroad.  These opportunities are vital for developing the 21st century skills, and creative or entrepreneurial intelligence critical to addressing our world’s problems. These same abilities are also fundamental to life-long learning and career success. From “smart hive hackathons” and student-developed sustainable bee businesses to our on-campus educational apiaries, HBI exemplifies innovative, experiential, challenge-based education at its finest.

HBI’s Impact

Vibrant partnerships have contributed significantly to successes thus far, allowing us to create shared value in the following ways.

  1. Education—HBI has created courses for the School of Business, College of Science, and College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
  2. Global Initiatives: HBI works with local governments, community members, businesses, and nonprofits to drive sustainable, entrepreneurial beekeeping programs. In Perú (60 hives), beekeeping offers indigenous people a means of political and economic empowerment and generates discussion about land management and conservation. In Colombia (300 hives), beekeeping fosters economic self-sufficiency for women entrepreneurs. In Spring 2018, a Mason global discovery grant supported study abroad expenses of students enrolled in “Social Impact and Entrepreneurship” so they could work directly with HBI’s Colombia program.
  3. Research: Research projects are led by College of Science faculty, students, and community partners.
  4. Public-Private Partnerships. Nearly 1000 individuals visit the hives annually. Partnerships with collaborators such as Fairfax County and Covanta to rehabilitate a landfill demonstrate HBI’s commitment to pollinator wellbeing through regional collaborations.