ECU responds to honey bee decrease by creating campus hives

GREENVILLE, NC (WITN) - Honey bees are now a challenged species due to risk of diseases, so in response, ECU gave a new home to around 20,000 bees Monday.

Artists from ECU decorated the hives in vibrant colors, and the crowd watched as professional beekeepers carefully transferred the bees and their queen from one hive to another. While doing so, they explained the process and why bees are so important to the environment.

Will Johnson is the owner and operator of All American Bee Company, and he supplied the bees to ECU. He says one of his jobs is to prevent the bees from getting diseases.

"They have different pests and diseases now that are inflicting them that weren't affecting them before," Johnson says, "The honey bee is not native to the U.S., and we bring them over here. Now, we're exposing them to all the new kinds of pests and diseases. And where the beekeeper comes in is to help manage those pests and diseases."

Johnson got into beekeeping after he stopped seeing honey bees in his yard regularly. So, he put a hive on his property. He informed the crowd at ECU on how important bees are to the food we eat

"Think about everything you eat; your fruits, your vegetables, your...different things going on. You wouldn't have those without the honey bee. Without the honey bee, you don't have almonds," Johnson says.

Some of the bees began to swirl around the beekeepers during the demonstration as they were searching for their queen, but five-year-old Sadie Johnson—who they call the "bee whisperer"— wasn't afraid. She says it's all in how you handle them.

"If you don't swat at them, them won't do nothing. And if you swish them, them will do something," Sadie said.

If you'd like to help save the honey bees, Johnson says refrain from maintaining your yards too often, because doing less can actually be better for the bees. Plants like dandelions and wildflowers can encourage the bees to pollenate.

Johnson is happy ECU is creating a pollen-air friendly area for the bees. With this type of progress, ECU is well on it's way to become Bee Campus U.S.A. certified.

"ECU has gone over and beyond to do that extra step and get the hives in here and get everybody exposed to them; and show the world that they're committed to helping the honey bees.'

The bees are currently located behind the utility plant near Lake Laupus. ECU now has a sign on the Lake Laupus Trail with more information on the bees.