Displaced Coal Miners are Finding New Opportunities with University of Delaware’s Beekeeping Initiative

In *All, Agricultural Systems by Ag is America

Coal miners learn a lot of great things on the job, that can also be applied to beekeeping. University of Delaware’s professor of entomology and Appalachian Beekeeping Collective consultant Debbie Delaney is helping displaced miners in 14 of southern West Virginia’s counties get involved with their beekeeping efforts. The Appalachian Bee Keeping Collective’s headquarters are located at an old camp that once belonged to coal mining companies, which is one of the reasons why she thinks miners would be great for the job.

“They’re native and they’ve been there for generations and they know every mountain, every hill has a name even though it might not be on a map. Because they’re so tied to the land, this operation had to be something that was sustainable and that was also very connected to the environment and beekeeping is definitely both of those things,” said Delaney.

The biggest challenge for first-time beekeepers? Overcoming the fear of being stung.

“They’re going to be working with an insect that stings and learning the social behavioral cues of a colony, to read them, to know when they need to apply smoke or how much protective clothing they should wear,” said Delaney. “Just learning to feel comfortable around them so that they are safe and that the participants can work them safely.”

Delaney is hoping that the group can help get the socioeconomic growth program up and running for the displaced miners and with them, grow the bee colonies over the season. To learn more about her bees and the miners’ involvement, read more here.

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