Bee Campus USA

    Thanks to the efforts of faculty, staff, and the student beekeepers in the Campus Garden, Washington College has been designated as Maryland’s first Bee Campus USA and only the 35th in the country. 

    Bee Campus USA

    As a Bee Campus, Washington College is ensuring a better future for our pollinators, our communities, and the planet. Bee Campus USA fosters ongoing dialogue to raise awareness of the role pollinators play in our communities and what each of us can do to provide them with healthy habitat.

    The Bee Campus USA program endorses a set of commitments for creating sustainable habitat for pollinators, which are vital to feeding the planet.

    College students, faculty, administrators, and staff have long been among the nation’s most stalwart champions for sustainable environmental practices.

    How is Washington College Pollinator Friendly?

    All Abuzz!

    April 9, 2018

    CHESTERTOWN, MD—Washington College has become the first higher-education institution in Maryland and the 35th in the nation to be designated an affiliate of Bee Campus USA, a program designed to marshal the strengths of educational campuses for the benefit of pollinators.

    “Imperiled pollinators are responsible for the reproduction of ninety percent of the world’s wild plant and tree species. Washington College is a stellar example of the influence educational institutions can have on their students and the broader community,” said Bee Campus USA Director Phyllis Stiles upon announcing WC’s affiliation. “Their talented faculty, staff, and students offer an invaluable resource for Eastern Shore residents in seeking ways to manage ornamental landscapes in more wildlife-friendly ways.”

    “By studying and supporting pollinators, students are working to realign our culture with natural forces and enhance life on this planet,” said campus garden adviser Shane Brill ’03 M’11, who three years ago helped students install an apiary in the campus garden. “They can trace the path of a bee’s flight back to the energy of the sun and, in the course of that journey, reimagine our place in the world.”

    Through a Beekeeping 101 course hosted each spring, students examine bee anatomy, nutrition and colony behavior, and how to establish a hive. They become empowered in the role of “bee ambassadors” for the public, and they volunteer their apicultural skills in the community with the Upper Eastern Shore Beekeeping Association.

    In the campus garden, students are hands-on learning not only the mechanics of beekeeping, but also the interconnected relationships between the campus bees and the plants and flowers that sustain them–and which they also sustain—in and near the garden. Last fall, for the first time, students harvested their own honey, collecting about two gallons. And, they’ve participated in pollinator workshops with local community members to further educate people about the vital roles that pollinators play in agriculture, permaculture, and plant and human health.

    Beyond maintaining the campus apiary, students involved in the campus garden program implement conservation landscapes that ensure thriving populations of pollinators in a local, resilient food system. They share their research on the college website with a growing inventory of useful plants they cultivate on campus.

    In its designation as a Bee Campus, Washington College has committed to minimizing hazards to pollinators by using no neonicotinoid pesticides, and almost no glyphosate herbicide or other potentially dangerous synthetic pesticides. According to Stiles, each certified campus must reapply each year and report on accomplishments from the previous year.

    About Bee Campus USA and Bee City USA

    The Bee Campus USA designation recognizes educational campuses that commit to a set of practices that support pollinators, including bees, butterflies, birds, and bats, among thousands of other species. 

    Bee City USA® urges local governments, individuals, organizations, corporations, and communities to promote and establish pollinator-friendly landscapes that are free of pesticides.  Since its inception in Asheville, North Carolina in 2012, many cities have been certified across the nation and many others are in the process of preparing applications. 

    Wildflowers and Magic 

    October 01, 2017

    The Campus Garden is abuzz with excitement. Students harvested honey from campus for the first time in Washington College history—and not one sting!


    For the first time, Washington College students harvested honey from the two-year-old Campus Garden apiary, collecting about two gallons of the golden sweet stuff to fill more than 30 jars — one of which went to President Kurt Landgraf on the eve of his inauguration in September.

    “I was surprised at how much honey we got just from one box,” says Kelsey McNaul ’18, a double major in environmental studies and sociology. “After installing the bees last spring, I would have never imagined that only a few short months later we would have enough honey to fill over 30 jars.”

    McNaul completed the co-curricular Beekeeping 101 course, which trains students in everything from apiary design to winterization of honeybees. Even if course graduates don’t become beekeepers, the program enables students to develop a close relationship with and better understanding of pollinators.

    She joined 12 other students and Campus Garden adviser Shane Brill ’03 M’11 one sunny afternoon to extract the fruits of the bees’ labors. Wearing protective gear and applying a smoker only when needed, the students carefully pulled a super — a box filled with combs of honey — from the apiary.

    “It was so calm, we were one with the bees,” says Nicole Hatfield ’21. “And there were no bee stings!”

    The bees “stayed mellow and harmless throughout the entire process,” agrees Adahne Hemp ’21. “The experience I shared with the other Garden Club members made me even more interested in bees than I already was, and it made me excited to work with the Campus Garden again.”

    After gently collecting a super, Julia Portmann ’19 led the beekeepers and gardeners to her residence hall suite, just steps from the Campus Garden. Gathered around a table and using basic kitchen implements — forks, bowls, spatulas, and colanders — students poured the honey into jars. Portmann helped to establish the hives last spring, and was happy to be a part of the first honey harvest.

    “It tastes great, and it’s even better knowing that it came from right outside my front door, from bees that I have worked with, and flavored by plants that I have watched grow and develop,” says Portmann, a biology and environmental science double major. “I imagined the process being much more complicated, but establishing the bees and extracting the honey was a lot of fun.” She wants to continue keeping bees after college, noting that we all have a responsibility to preserve pollinator habitat to counteract the decline of species crucial to our survival.

    Campus Garden intern Emily Castle ’18 has also spent a lot of time in the company of the bees. “I was most surprised to find that the honey ranged in color from shades of a dark amber to an orangey gold in each set of combs,” she says. “The different colors reflect the diverse nectary sources we have in the garden for the bees.”

    Jimmy Looper ’21 takes seriously the responsibility that humans bear for the current problems facing pollinators.

    “We should return the favor for all things bees do for us,” he says. “I love the idea of perhaps keeping bees in the future. I truly did not realize just how beneficial a hive, no matter the size, can be on the surrounding area, and you get free, delicious honey. What’s not to love?”

    So what does Washington College honey taste like?

    “Like wildflowers and magic,” says Castle.

    “So much better than store-bought honey, and there was so much happiness during the honey-making process,” Hatfield says. “Everyone had a permanent awestruck smile on their face. It tasted like a sweet gift from nature.”

    “Washington College honey is the sweetest and most delicious honey you will ever taste,” says McNaul. “With each taste, I feel so proud of what our bees and Garden Club members were able to produce. I love it!”

    Working in the apiary is one of many experiences bridging food and environment that are organized through the Eastern Shore Food Lab. Students interested in participating in the campus beekeeping program can contact Brill at  

    Ongoing Advocacy

    • The Student Government Association maintains the certification for Bee Campus USA and collaborates with interdisciplinary classes to promote pollinator advocacy on campus.
    • The Campus Grounds staff creates meadow plantings in place of lawns.
    • The Campus Garden conducts honey extraction workshops and sells the honey as a fundraiser to purchase plants for pollinators.
    • The Compost Team rebuilds soil as the basis for pollinator habitat.
    • The Student Government Association organizes Casey Time which has included the planting of native flowering plants.