Mason Raises Peaceful Bees

by Cynthia B. Smith and edited by Aikwan Chong

Environmental Science majors hooded up and excited to study bees up close.

“George Mason bees are peaceful bees,” says Mason’s Honeybee Initiative Director, German Perilla.

As part of the EVPP 302 Biomes and Human Dimension’s course taught by assistant professor Cindy Smith, students donned bee suits and explored the teaching hives, searching for parasites such as varroa mites which may have attached themselves to drones or workers.

White dot of bee-safe marking paint identifies the queen

A nurse bee watches the emergence of a new worker bee

ESP graduate teaching assistant Chelsea Gray shares,”Locating the queen, (who has an obvious longer abdomen as well as a dab of a white marking paint) and observing how workers attend to her was fascinating! Watching larval bees wriggle out of the cells was pretty cool too.” Overall, the hives are quite healthy, and students found only a few varroa mites.

Back in the lab, undergrads compared morphology of 17 different bee species, examining pollen carrying structures on their back legs and counting antennae segments to determine sex (males have 13, while females have 12).

Understanding how diseases and parasites, such as these mites, impact pollinators and other wildlife is an part of the Department of Environmental Science and Policy’s One Health Approach to ecosystem health and sustainability.

“We’re lucky to have such an incredible resource on campus,”  says Gray.

To learn more about The Honeybee Initiative, visit