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Senior Addie Wilson has always been interested in environmentalism, but what that looked like changed after she learned about the Carolina Beekeeping Club.

Addie Wilson dressed in yellow Tshirt smiles at the camera while holding a piece of equipment containing bees.
Carolina Beekeeper’s Club 2020-2021 president, Addie Wilson. (photo courtesy of UNC-Chapel Hill)

When senior Addie Wilson first arrived at Carolina, she knew she wanted to get involved in a few environmental clubs. She’d been heavily involved in environmentalism during high school and wanted to continue those efforts as a Tar Heel.

But she never envisioned bees as part of it.

Wilson, a physics major in the College of Arts & Sciences, only discovered the Carolina Beekeeping Club near the end of her first year in Chapel Hill after her roommate suggested checking it out.

“I ended up dropping all of my other environmental clubs just for beekeeping because it’s so hands-on, which is what I love about it,” says Wilson, who served as the club’s 2020-2021 president. “It’s such a cool experience to deal with a living thing.”

Shortly after Wilson joined, the Carolina Beekeeping Club members moved their hives from a faculty member’s house to the roof of the FedEx Global Education Center, making them more accessible to the campus community. During her first hive check, Wilson witnessed something she’d never seen before — a baby bee’s birth. “I got to hold a frame of bees, and there was this one baby bee coming out of its capped cell,” she says. “It was so cute and fuzzy.”

“Cute and fuzzy” may not be what comes to mind when many people think of bees. The pollinators are often conflated with wasps — aggressors who will sting unprovoked — but bees are a different story. “They’re not going to harm you unless they’re provoked,” says Wilson.

Still, that didn’t stop her from having a healthy respect for the insects. Her early days in the club were easy “because there were people showing me what to do, and they were holding the bees,” says Wilson. But the summer after her first year, she was tasked with taking care of the hive by herself. “That’s when I got scared,” she recalls. “It’s just me and these bees, and they could take me down.”

Wilson says tending bees requires confidence. “The more afraid you are, the more they can sense you. You’re better off just going at it with an open mind and treating them more like a friendly insect than something that’s going to harm you.”

The same reasons that drew her to the Carolina Beekeeping Club have been attracting new members since the pandemic. Wilson saw a big spike in interest this past year. “I think we have a lot of momentum right now because people are trying to branch out and get involved in clubs because they’ve been stuck inside all year.”

Although Wilson recently stepped down as president, she’ll be staying involved in a different capacity during her senior year. And she’s excited about the club’s future. “I’m hoping the club will continue to flourish.”

For those interested in participating in Carolina Beekeeping Club, Wilson says attending a meeting and then a hive check is the best way to learn more. The club’s Instagram also regularly posts updates.

As for how she’ll take her love of bees out into the world after Carolina, Wilson isn’t sure. “I think the ideal thing would be to somehow combine physics and beekeeping, if I can figure that out,” she says. “I would love to continue working with bees.”

Watch the Carolina Beekeeping Club in action.

By Amanda Wicks, University Communications

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