Alabama Power volunteers help support pollinators and the environment at Auburn Bee Lab

Alabama Power volunteers help support pollinators and the environment at Auburn Bee Lab
Alabama Power Service Organization volunteers and members of the Alabama Power Environmental Affairs team visited the Auburn University Bee Laboratory to learn more about bees and pollinators and to assemble and paint more than 100 beehive superstructures. (contributed)

They are tiny but mighty in their impact on the planet’s ecosystems, agriculture and much more. They are the pollinators: the bees, bats, butterflies and even small mammals that help carry pollen to and from plants, helping keep vital habitats thriving and making the crops grow that we put on our tables as food.

This is Pollinator Week, when many scientists, biologists, agriculture experts and nature lovers pause to recognize the critical creatures who quietly make so much happen to protect the planet and quality of life.

Alabama Power’s environmental team and its employee volunteers understand the importance of pollinators. They are involved in projects around the state designed to support them – on Alabama Power property and in the communities the company serves.

Earlier this month, for example, leaders with the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO) and the company’s Environmental Affairs team converged at the Auburn University Bee Laboratory to learn more about the importance of pollinators, and  take on a volunteer project designed to help support Alabama’s bees. Together, they assembled and painted over 100 beehive “supers” – short for the superstructures, or boxes – that are added to the hives for bees to store their honey.

Alabama Power Service Organization works with Auburn Bee Lab from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The volunteer building project directly supported the Bee Lab’s goal of managing more than 300 bee colonies, which need 1,200 beehive supers at full operation.

Geoffrey Williams, assistant professor and graduate program officer, and Selina Bruckner, post-doctoral associate from Auburn’s Entomology & Plant Pathology Department, provided an overview of the lab’s ongoing research. They also gave the group a sweet bonus: a chance to taste the local honey. The group also toured the lab’s research facilities before getting to work on the supers.

In addition to conducting research, the Bee Lab harvests honey twice a year – in May and July – from lab colonies located within seven miles of the university’s campus. Proceeds from the sales of the “AU-Bees” honey and T-shirts help support lab operations and projects.

“The honey sale is a really amazing fundraiser for us,” Williams said. “We invest that back into the lab to hire undergraduate students, to buy materials and supplies that we may need.”

Jason Carlee, manager of Water Field Services – Environmental Affairs at Alabama Power, said the beehive project is just the latest among several initiatives the company has been involved in to support pollinators. Other ongoing projects include maintaining pollinator plots on company-owned land; a research project assessing the value of company rights of way for pollinator populations; and a partnership with state conservation officials to protect endangered and threatened plants that are also important for pollinators.

Alabama Power biologists are involved with partners in ongoing research and other projects to track and protect Alabama’s multiple species of bats, which also are important pollinators.

“Our work with pollinators and to protect pollinators is just part of what we do, every day, to help support the state’s biological diversity and natural resources,” Carlee said.

Broderick Smith, president of the state board of APSO, was among volunteers who took part in the bee project. APSO is made up of Alabama Power and Southern Company employees based in Alabama who volunteer tens of thousands of hours every year to support nonprofits and community organizations.

Smith said APSO members are involved in many volunteer projects around the state that support the environment and conservation, such as Renew Our Rivers. For more than 20 years, Alabama Power has partnered with numerous organizations on ROR cleanups that have resulted in the removal of millions of pounds of trash from Alabama waterways.

“Our volunteers understand and appreciate how amazing and beautiful Alabama is, and they want to be a part of helping keep it that way,” Smith said.

“We all learned a lot about bees and pollinators through this project,” Smith added. “We are always looking for creative ways for us to help protect our state and its wildlife. I look forward to more projects like this in the future.”

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