Food Lifestyle Sustainability

Center for Honeybee Research Provides Crucial Data to Beekeepers Everywhere

Center for Honeybee Research. Photo courtesy of Sophia’s Perspective

Inaugural Asheville Honey Fest is June 5

By Gina Malone

Asheville’s Center for Honeybee Research (CHBR) is partnering with Shanti Elixirs to present the brand-new AVL Honey Fest on Sunday, June 5, from 12–5 p.m. at Salvage Station. This family-friendly event will include the Center’s 11th Annual Black Jar International Honey Contest as well as live music, food and drink, and kids’ activities and learning opportunities provided by Peace Gardens & Market/Blue Note Junction, Bees Beyond Borders, Asheville Sister Cities and Claxton Elementary School. Vendors will also be present to sell handcrafted goods, art, honey and other bee-related products. Those attending the festival are invited to wear bee and pollinator costumes.

Children working with bees at the Center for Honeybee Research

The non-profit CHBR began its valuable research and work in 2011 when Carl Chesick, CHBR director, began collecting data on the 20 hives located on his 14-acre urban farm in West Asheville. “Carl’s mission was to find out why honeybee colonies are failing to survive as never before in their 50-million-year history,” says Terri Lechner, CHBR’s director of community outreach. When he realized the research at that time was not providing the answers he was seeking, Chesick began collaborating with other beekeepers and entomologists also concerned about the lack of scientific data available. “Together, they developed a data collection method to use during hive inspections,” says Lechner. “This bi-weekly data collection is part of CHBR’s impressive longitudinal study that compares hive management strategies and their effectiveness on hive survival. CHBR strives to use this data to provide unbiased, non-proprietary research to benefit honeybees and beekeepers locally and globally.”

Since then, Chesick has inspired and mentored other area beekeepers including the late Sarah McKinney of Honey and the Hive, a Weaverville business offering beekeeping equipment, honey and related gifts; and Phyllis Stiles, who created the Bee City USA program, which provides a framework for collective community conservation efforts across the US. “Like so many other pollinator conservationists and advocates, the honeybees were my gateway pollinator,” says Stiles. “The Center for Honeybee Research not only brought many world-renowned scientists to speak in Asheville, it also served as the fiscal sponsor for Bee City USA during our first few years.”

With beekeepers losing more than 40 percent of their hives yearly, and more than half of North America’s native bee species in decline, the role of CHBR as an educational hub is more important than ever. Staff and volunteers with the organization provide mentoring and community outreach, including hosting school and youth field trips to apiaries and partnering with other organizations such as Asheville GreenWorks to help create and maintain pollinator habitats. “Last November, CHBR installed a colony in Claxton Elementary School’s observation hive to replace their hive that didn’t survive through the fall,” Lechner says.

“We are also working closely with Sister Cities and their Valladolid-Mexico chairperson, Rebecca Ann Roberston, who is helping female beekeepers in Valladolid to grow and thrive, economically and culturally.”

The Black Jar Honey Contest provide entrants an opportunity to receive recognition and to increase profit margins. During the contest’s first year, says Lechner, only a few dozen entries came from WNC and north Georgia, with the winner that year receiving $250. This year, entries were received from all over the world—places like Brazil, Malta, Canada, Scotland, Egypt, Kenya, Hong Kong, Hungary and Haiti. This year’s grand prize will be $5,500. Winners receive promotional benefits such as labels that denote their honey as distinguished in the contest and listings in perpetuity on the website. “A major goal of the Black Jar is to educate the public how pure, unblended honey reflects the unique terroir of the regions in which they’re produced,” says Lechner. “When consumers realize honey is devalued by the blended, degraded and cheap offerings on grocery shelves, demand for real honey produced by real beekeepers (as opposed to packers) will increase. Our entrants represent small- to medium-sized apiaries and we are helping to support and promote these small businesses.”

General admission tickets, available on, are $12, with children under 12 admitted free. Free parking is available.

For more information or to donate or volunteer to help with the Center’s work, visit To volunteer at AVL Honey Fest on June 5, visit

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