Ed. Note: What’s amazing, at least to me, isn’t so much the shift from coal mining to beekeeping. Rather it’s the reversal of the destruction that had resulted from mining. The return of bees to these areas actually changes the land. The bees support the flora which, in turn, supports various species of animals and other pollinators. A transformation begins to take place with the assistance of the honey bees.
Former coal miners or citizens whose lives have been shaped by the coal mining industry in southern West Virginia spent their summer learning how to establish and operate bee colonies thanks to help from the University of Delaware’s Debbie Delaney.
Delaney, associate professor of entomology in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, spent her summer in Summers County working as a consultant through Appalachian Headwaters which is a non-profit organization that formed the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective. Delaney said that the goal was to help get the socioeconomic growth program up and running for displaced miners in 14 counties in southern West Virginia.
“We got about 500 nucleus colonies or nucs, which are small colonies of bees, and a queen and all summer we’ve been erecting bear fences and creating bee yards so we can grow the colonies over the season and get them through the winter,” said Delaney.
Beginning next year, local partners will come on board and get hives which will be a way for them to generate income.
Delaney said that how much income will vary depending on what kind of forage is available during that time of year—and that since the initial installation began after foraging season, they have had to feed the bees a lot to get them up to weight to make it through winter.