For the past decade, Mason alum Germán Perilla, MAIS ’12, has led George Mason University’s honey bee efforts.
Perilla is cofounder and director of Mason’s Honey Bee Initiative (HBI), a program supported by Mason’s School of Business and operated by Business for a Better World Center to empower communities through sustainable beekeeping. Students from across campus, regardless of major, have a hands-on opportunity to explore their interest in apiculture.
As an adjunct faculty member, Perilla has created and taught experiential learning courses involving bees, including the popular Environmental Science and Policy course Beekeeping and Sustainability, In Search of the Perfect Queen, and the study-abroad course The Importance of the Amazon in the Modern World.
Perilla has been instrumental in helping HBI develop science-based and sustainable practices relating to beehive maintenance, hive splitting, queen rearing, and disease management. The initiative currently maintains hive clusters on Mason’s Fairfax and Science and Technology Campuses, at the Route 95 Landfill in Lorton, and at the Manassas Airport.
HBI also operates in Perú and Perilla’s native Colombia, where he has been working with community beekeepers to establish hives and create a market for honey and bee-related products since he was a graduate student.
“I’m most excited about the fact that the Maijuna can use the beekeeping project for income, but still maintain their traditional lifestyle,” Perilla said in a 2011 interview about his work with the indigenous people in Perú. “The bees will provide an economic means to these communities without causing any environmental destruction.”
In 2020, HBI’s work in Colombia was selected as the 15th best overall social and environmental project in Latin America and the Caribbean by the Latinoamérica Verde Awards. The project was selected due to the results it has achieved in promoting sustainable development and the conservation of bee biodiversity.