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MUSC employee discovers joys of beekeeping
By Dawn Brazell | MUSC News Center | August 4, 2014
Allyson Crowell, communications specialist with MUSC’s Office of Development & Alumni Affairs, keeps bees in her backyard.
With MUSC opening the door to its new observational hive, some MUSC employees are joining the cause as well on a personal level. The following is an interview with Allyson Crowell, communications specialist with MUSC's Office of Development & Alumni Affairs, about why she recently decided to put a hive into her backyard.
How long have you been beekeeping and how did you get into it?
We started keeping bees this past April. Bees are a hot topic right now, because their population is in such crisis – and they are so very necessary. My husband, Adam, makes musical instruments for a living and is just a really handy guy. Because of his woodworking background, Adam was able to build a lot of the components that we use in the hive. He posed the idea more as, “Why not keep bees?” and I couldn’t think of a good reason. Now that we have them, I look forward to our hive inspections and just observing them at work every day.
What's the appeal?
It’s not honey, although our bees make some delicious stuff. We don’t plan to take much honey this year, since it’s the bees’ food supply, and we want to leave them with plenty of reserves to get through the winter. We have a third of an acre of land in our backyard and really just wanted to do our part to keep some bees alive.
What have you found surprising?
When we inspect the hive, literally pulling pieces out of their home to make sure everything is healthy and free of pests, the bees are surprisingly cool about the whole thing. They fly around a bit and then, as soon as we put the hive back together, they go right back to work. That still blows my mind every time.
How has being a beekeeper changed you?
We are much more aware of when everything blooms around town. Adam pointed out, when we saw a bee on a flower in our neighborhood, that maybe it was one of ours – which is a neat perspective. We also pay closer attention to products that use honey and beeswax.
Where would you like to see the cause go?
Bees are basically contracted out on farms that use pesticides. We need better regulations in that area to help preserve the bee population – and just to be more humane toward an animal working so hard. And even if you don’t care about bees, it’s still a little disturbing to think of how those harsh chemicals translate into what you consume.
I also think more people should keep bees. Whenever Adam and I talk about keeping bees, we always hear how someone’s father or grandfather kept bees – and that’s just not the case today. Bees aren’t expensive. They don’t need a lot of space, and they don’t require much upkeep. Although they seem far more exotic than getting a puppy, they are infinitely less demanding. Plus, they’re a great learning tool for children, and they play a key role in our environment and food supply. There’s great community support both within Charleston and online, so I’d like to see more people keeping bees.
What are some of the more interesting things you've learned?
Bees just have a really unique culture. A lot of beekeeping starter kits come with a basic instruction manual, and you learn about all the roles within the hive. For example, the worker bees you see are all female. They literally carry out their jobs until they perish, sometimes even destroying their own wings from working so hard. The single queen mates with multiple males from the hive, and then she rips out their reproductive organs and kills them. "Game of Thrones" (HBO show) has nothing on bees.