Among the varied and sundry activities offered over the weekend, perhaps the most interesting -- and certainly the sweetest -- took place in Roomies Saturday afternoon when beekeeper and faculty member Terry Meyer offered an opportunity to see a frame of honeybees up close (without fear of being stung!) and help harvest their delicious honey. An enthusiastic group of students, faculty and faculty children showed up and not only had fun spinning and tasting, but also learned about Foxcroft’s own apiary, the bees that live there and why honeybees have been in the news in recent years.
Starting in about 2006, their numbers have been in decline for reasons that have not yet been nailed down, but it appears to be the result of a confluence of environmental stressors -- mites, beetles, pesticides, loss of habitat, monoculture agriculture and more -- reaching the tipping point and causing what has been named Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). The mysterious disappearance of thousands of bees from their beehives has puzzled and disturbed beekeepers from around the world. These industrious insects, along with their pollinating sisters like native bees and butterflies are responsible for one out of every three bites of food, not to mention the honey, pollen, beeswax, and propolis that are harvested from hives for the benefit of humans.
While there is still much work to be done to determine the cause of CCD, one thing is certain: honeybees need our help now. Establishing hives in bee-friendly landscapes is thought to be one way we can help honeybees recover, and so two years ago, Meyer proposed a Wintermission class to introduce a few Foxcroft girls to life in the hive, raise awareness of the importance of the honeybee to agriculture and the environment, and bring a beehive to campus. Two years and two Wintermission classes later, the Foxcroft apiary now includes two hives, each with about 50-60,000 bees, managed by Meyer with the assistance of graduates of her Wintermission class and students in the fledgling Beekeeping Club.
On Saturday, Meyer brought an observation hive, honey extractor, and two frames of capped honey from Foxcroft’s hives for a honey spinning and tasting in Roomies kitchen. The crowd that gathered was abuzz with anticipation mostly for the prospect of tasting honey straight from the hive, but, as always happens when these amazing creatures are on hand, the questions began to flow. So, while some were mesmerized watching new bees emerge from brood cells in the observation hive, others watched Meyer prepare the frames for extraction, then helped her spin and filter the raw honey as she fielded questions from young and old.
These frames yielded three quarts of honey, and added to the two quarts spun earlier in the year. This first honey harvest from Foxcroft’s apiary was small but successful. Even more important, though, honeybees have a few more informed and curious advocates, and that’s a good thing.
An all-girls boarding and day school in Northern Virginia, Foxcroft prepares young women in grades 9-12 for success in college and in life. Our outstanding academic program offers challenging courses, including Advanced Placement classes and an innovative STEM program. Our premiere equestrian program is nationally recognized, and our athletic teams have won conference and state championships. Experience the best in girls' boarding schools: visit Foxcroft.