Chris Faessen  beesWolf Trap Foundation is known for presenting amazing performances in one of the most unique performing arts venues in the country, but many are unaware of Wolf Trap’s strong commitment to the environment and sustainability. This summer, Wolf Trap Foundation is doubling down on that passion with the expansion of its beekeeping program led by Chris Faessen, Executive Chef.

Located at the Center for Education, the beekeeping program started three years ago with only a handful of hives as a supplement to Wolf Trap Foundation’s vegetable garden. Today, the program has grown to exciting new levels, with a total of nine strong hives buzzing along thanks in part to a recent grant from the Barkdull Fund for Animal Welfare from the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia specifically for the bees. The bees can reach as far as six miles in their never-ending quest for nectar, ensuring the forests of the National Park as well as Meadowlark Botanical Gardens are pollinated. While it may seem like the bees do most of the work while buzzing around the park, Chris and his staff work extremely hard to ensure the bees remain healthy, happy, and disease-free.

Bees are currently facing unprecedented cases of colony collapse disorder, an issue where they simply disappear from their hive. Bees across the country are dying in large numbers due to colony collapse disorder as well as factors including harmful parasites like varroa mites, viruses and diseases, pesticides, and reduced food sources. In turn, many crops are not pollinated resulting in decreased crop yields. “The bees have a three to six mile radius that they collect nectar from. That’s a large space for a little bee. There is a high risk of bee loss because of these chemicals that some people use to keep their plants and shrubs nice and weed and pest free. But these chemicals have been proven to be extremely harmful to the honey bee,” says Chris. Luckily, Chris’ vast array of beekeeping experience and helpful staff keep him well equipped for the challenges of beekeeping.

A member of the Prince William Regional Bee Association, Chris has taken multiple courses and received hands on experience with the many intricacies of beekeeping. Chris has even helped other local beekeepers get started in the field through sharing equipment and providing training, helping to remove some of the barriers of entering into beekeeping. “Like anything, it takes time and experience to be able to look at the hive and know what’s truly happening with the bees,” explains Chris. “Do I need to join two hives together to make sure there are enough bees to keep the colony warm through the winter? Is there a high varroa mite count?  Do I treat for varroa mites even if the count is low?  Are there enough food supplies for the bees?  If not what do we do? There are many options but this in my opinion takes the experience that I have gotten from the past three years. We currently have 5 strong hives, and 4 nuc hives. That’s a total of 9 hives and to be able to check each hive and treat them if necessary becomes very time consuming. Luckily, I have a great team of some staff and some volunteers to help me when needed,” says Chris.