Appalachian Headwaters Newest Beekeepers

The declining coal industry has left nearly 100,000 former miners unemployed in West Virginia. A new nonprofit, the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective (ABC), hopes to bring beekeeping as a revived Eco-friendly industry to the region.

The charity was funded using some of the $7.5 million settlement from a lawsuit against coal mine company for violating the Clean Water Act. Some of this money has been used to fund environmental restoration projects and to develop sustainable economic opportunities in the once-thriving region that now has the highest unemployment rate in the country.

So far, the collective has trained 85 former coal miners as beekeepers with more to be trained this year. Graduates of the free class “Introduction to Beekeeping” can receive free or reduced-cost bees, equipment, and access to ongoing beekeeping mentoring and training. The students can opt to maintain between two and 20 hives.

The trained beekeepers have harvested their first honey from this Spring of 2019. The non-profit then will collect, bottle and sell the honey for them, paying them market rate about currently $7 a pound. With the potential to earnings of around $700 per hive, 20 hives could earn $15,000 per season. The organization also are also offers training in making candles, lip balm and other wax products for additional income opportunities. For very part-time work from home, it provides a decent supplemental income for people struggling to make ends meet.

Plus, beekeeping helps ensure the survival of threatened honey bee (Apis mellifera) populations by supplying colonies a place to live, and improves the health and biodiversity of local ecosystems.

“It’s not common knowledge that the honey bee can only survive in many parts of the world due to the beekeeper,” writes beekeeper Paul Webb and continues to say, “Wild colonies have dwindled to the point of extinction due to modern agriculture. Huge expanses of land which now grow a single crop were once home to thousands of plants providing nectar and pollen for the honey bee and many other insects. Woodland has also disappeared, where traditionally a honey bee colony would find its home in the hollow trunk of a tree. This reduction of biodiversity, and decrease of animal populations has a huge environmental impact.

Sustaining honey bee numbers means the pollination of crops which otherwise could not come to fruition or have reduced harvest. it is true that some plants will be visited by many insect types, and others can only be pollinated by the honey bee. Honey bees are incredibly effective pollinators, when a source of pollen or nectar has been discovered by a scout bee, a large amount of the bees from that hive will soon visit the same planting multiple times. The bees will always pollinate the whole flower, which produces perfect fruit.

For more information see the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective (ABC) website, and the following:

Happy Beekeeping!