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GMU Students Try To Understand Mystery Of Disappearing Honeybees

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At the top floor of the Shenandoah Parking Deck, 12 hives are buzzing with activity. More than 800 students are working there with professor German Perilla.

"There is a crisis," he says. "Scientists call it colony collapse disorder."

The professor and his students are trying to figure out why the honeybees are disappearing, what it means and what they can do to change it.

"Each student in the class will have one hive," says Perilla. "And it is not your pet. It is your hive. And you have to understand the mysteries of the hive."

Understanding the mysteries of the hive just may be the key to saving the planet from the devastation of colony collapse disorder.

"The main cause is actually the way we manage bees. It is nothing wrong with the bees. It is wrong with how we manage bees... That's what we hope to change here."

Lisa Gring-Pemble, associate dean of New Century College at the university, says saving bees is more important than it seems.

"Without bees, a lot of the foods that we have come to rely on — almonds, avocadoes, cotton, alfalfa — those things would be gone in a world without bees."

Apiaries are nothing new, she says. But this effort has a broader vision. The notion that we are working together to find a sustainable way of repopulating honeybees is pretty unique.

Emily Gwoliardi, a graduate student in education, says she hopes to bring the lessons she learns here to the classroom.

"The whole purpose of bees is to work together to accomplish a greater good," she says. "So I think to take that into a classroom for students to learn would be really beneficial."

Beneficial for the students, but also beneficial for the environment — if the professor and his students can help unlock the mystery of colony collapse disorder.

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