by Cheryl Smithem

Today’s students are personally invested in reducing their impact on the planet and living in a sustainable manner – and you can see that commitment at the College of Charleston. Students proposed an apiculture (beekeeping) project that is being funded by the College’s Office of Sustainability, through the ECOllective Fund. The project is a cooperative effort between the Sustainable Garden at Dixie Plantation and the Charleston Area Beekeepers Association (CABA) who are currently maintaining a hive at Dixie.

“Without bees, globally, we will witness a decline in biodiversity as well as a threat to food security. It is for these reasons that promoting apiculture enhances sustainability,” explains Tyler Hassig, a Master of Science in Environmental Studies (MES) and Peace Corps Master’s International (PCMI) Program student who came up with the apiculture project. “The honey bee (Apis mellifera), has a wide range of ecosystem services, acting as vital pollinators of both commercial crops and wild flowering plants. In fact, honey bees are considered by some to be the most important piece of agricultural equipment for a farmer.”

Hassig studied apiculture at Clemson University with Professor Mike Hood who currently serves as executive secretary of the South Carolina Bee Keepers Association.

The hive was installed at the College’s Dixie Plantation in December (2012) and is used as an instructional tool for future apiculturists, as well as providing bees to pollinate fruits and vegetables in the garden. The funds from ECOllective will purchase equipment for students to work with the bees and will allow for the continued maintenance and viability of the hive.

“The apiculture project provides a unique opportunity for students to have an immersive experience in a sustainability field: sustainable agriculture,” says Jen Jones, facilities coordinator for the Office of Sustainability and adviser to the ECOllective Student Project Committee (ESPC). “Not only will they be able to learn about apiculture through signs on site, but they will be able to put on a beekeeping suit and actually practice apiculture and gain the first hand knowledge that only comes through doing.”

This application of critical skills is at the heart of the Office’s approach to engendering sustainability.  Jones says, “The mission of the Office is to generate and apply knowledge through holistic praxis to create sustainable solutions that transform society by rethinking, redesigning and restoring integrated systems.  This project is a perfect fit for funding because it is a tangible example of holistic praxis. The full system of gardening requires not just inputs from sun, soil, and water, but from other systems such as the insect pollinators that make food growing possible.”

Hassig states, “Over the past several decades, bee populations worldwide have been steadily declining as the list of threats continues to grow. Some threats such as mites, pathogens, and pesticides are easily identified while others simply remain a mystery. Scientists lump the mysterious disappearance of entire honey bee colonies under the banner of Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD.  Many questions surrounding CCD leave policy makers with the difficult task of developing solution pathways before it is too late.”

As for his future, Hassig would like to “expand into urban bee keeping and link this to urban farming and green roof projects.”

For more information on the apiculture project, contact Hassig at or read more about the Office of Sustainability and their work on their Facebook page.