The George Mason University Honey Bee Initiative

George Mason member spotlight

This Member Spotlight highlights George Mason University School of Business in the United States and its focus on sustainability and partnerships with the Honey Bee Initiative (HBI). Thank you to Andrew Garavito, Beekeeper for HBI and Germán Perilla, Director of HBI, for their contribution. Special thanks to Dr Lisa M. Gring-Pemble, Co-Executive Director for a Better World Center and Co-Founder and Director of Strategy for HBI, for her assistance. 

The Honey Bee Initiative (HBI), an effort supported by the Business for a Better World Center in the School of Business at George Mason University, seeks to empower communities through sustainable beekeeping. Partnerships with government, for-profit businesses, non-profit organisations, and community members are particularly vital to the success of the initiative.

Domestically, our management of approximately 50 honey bee colonies across northern Virginia allows students and staff the opportunity to engage in scientific research, design art projects, connect with the community, and even study abroad. A National Science Foundation Future of Work grant entitled: Data Science to Save Bees and Transform the Future Work of Beekeepers is a great example of all these pieces coming together. A collaborative effort between HBI and other members of the George Mason community in the School of Business, College of Education and Human Development, and the College of Engineering and Computing, our goal is to develop technologies that will enable beekeepers to monitor their hives more effectively. Presently, we are outfitting hives with sensors that measure temperature, sound, weight, vibration, carbon dioxide, and humidity inside the hive, as well as cameras on the outside to monitor activity at the hive entrance. Ultimately, all the information we are collecting will not only help beekeepers, but also we are busy developing innovative ways to present this data to K-12 students so the students can learn about sustainable beekeeping and data analysis as they prepare to collect data for scientific experiments of their own.

HBI also has a significant presence in South America, with operations in both the Santander region of Colombia and in the Loreto region of the Peruvian Amazon. Working with Africanized honey bees as well as two species of stingless bees, melíponas and trigonas, which are native to these communities, we intend to ensure beekeeping becomes a means of economic empowerment for women, school-age children, and the communities we serve.

George Mason researchOur Colombia programme is supported by The Honey Bee Impact Foundation (HBIF), a non-profit entity established in Colombia. HBIF implements beekeeping and meliponiculture programs and projects in different areas of the country, emphasises community empowerment and environmental sustainability and recognises the vital role rural women play in the economic success of their families. HBIF also raises awareness and educates young people from different rural schools in the region. Currently the programme works in 12 municipalities of the department of Santander in Colombia which include: Socorro, Aratoca, Mogotes, Páramo, Valle de San José, Barichara, Hato, Confines, Palmas del Socorro, Simacota, Oiba, and Suaita. Additionally, the programme works with four schools located in the municipalities of Hato, Morros, Suaita and Confines.

The Colombian programme was selected by “Premios Latinoamerica Verde” as one of the 15 (out of 2540) best social and environmental projects in Latin America and the Caribbean. It is also recognised as one of the seven best projects presented by Colombia out of 196 total ranked projects.

As we turn toward the future, we aim to expand HBI both regionally and internationally. With the support of a grant from the O’Shaughnessy-Hurst Memorial Foundation, we will develop HBI into a self-sustaining business by increasing the number of managed hives to between two and three hundred over the next few years. Our goal is to use honey and wax sales, queen rearing, and nucleus colony production to develop a sustainable beekeeping business model in Virginia. On the international front, we are currently working to develop a business plan that will allow us to replicate sustainable beekeeping businesses that we have piloted in Colombia and Perú.

George Mason HBI


George Mason University School of Business has been an EFMD member since 2009. Learn more about our Member Spotlight series here. If you are interested in participating in the Member Spotlight, please contact us.

Learn more about the Honey Bee Initiative in this Global Focus article