A resident beekeeper at Johnson C. Smith University has found intriguing parallels between the way bees structure their colonies, and how the black community can find success through working together. Get the full story from Karla Redditte at Spectrum Local News below.

School is back in session. Courses in reading, writing, and math are happening in person.

However, when it comes to learning life lessons, nature’s classroom never closes. 

We can learn a lot by simply paying attention to the great outdoors, and a Charlotte beekeeper teaches her students just that through lessons from the hive.

In a class that’s less about the birds and all about the bees, attire matters. Protective clothing became Janelle Dunlap’s suit of armor when she fulfilled her childhood dream of becoming a beekeeper back in 2018.

“I wanted to like, give something back to the ecology of the space instead of taking, which I felt was happening through gentrification,” Dunlap said.

So, this grad student is giving back by taking care of bees, and teaching students more on what the buzz is all about. Dunlap serves as a resident beekeeper at Johnson C. Smith University.

While she is technically the instructor of this course, Dunlap tends to allow the true teachers, Italian honey bees, to fly into the spotlight.

She encourages her students to get close to the hives of “Queen Menen” and “Queen Charlotte.” Dunlap wants them to see not only the complex organization of the colony, but she also wants them to look deeper into what’s happening on the honeycombs.

“Everyone has a role to fulfill in their communities and bees are the perfect example of that,” she said. “Strong leadership is key. Having a workforce, a heathy workforce is key to the health of a colony.”

Without each bee playing its role, the hive fails. However, with success comes the harvest of honey.

Dunlap believes by teaching the art of beekeeping, her sweet reward is helping to bridge the gap between African Americans and nature. It’s a gap she says was created when many moved to cities decades ago, leaving behind their agricultural lifestyles.

“There’s a lot of generational knowledge that’s been lost in not participating in these practices. I’m wanting to reintroduce young people, specifically young Black people, into working with nature to kind of fill in that generational gap,” she said.

With knowledge comes power, and with a little inspiration from these busy bees, Dunlap hopes her students make a beeline for overall greatness using the lessons learned from the hive.

Dunlap is also a mixed media artist who uses encaustic paint to create some of her masterpieces. More information can be found on her website.