A non-profit organization in West Virginia has combated the declining coal industry by training displaced coal miners to become beekeepers.

The initiative has been hugely popular and is improving the local economy and protecting threatened bee populations in the area.

The decline of the once booming coal industry has left almost 100,000 miners out of work in West Virginia but a new nonprofit called the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective are planning to bring a fresh, more eco-friendly industry to the region – beekeeping!

The nonprofit organization was founded with a $7.5 million settlement from a lawsuit against a coal mine company after it violated the Clean Water Act.

The settlement money is being used to fund huge environmental restoration projects in the region and is driving sustainable economic opportunities in the area that now has the highest unemployment rate in the country.

To date, the charity has trained 35 former miners as beekeepers and they plan to train 50 more in the next few weeks.

The classes and training of the “Introduction to Beekeeping” initiative are completely free and trainees are provided with bees, beehives and all the safety equipment they need.

They can chose to maintain between 2 and 20 hives.

James Scyphers is one of the miners who was laid off after 20 years in the industry.

James Scyphers, a displaced coal miner who worked in the industry for 20 years.

The coal-miners come beekeepers will be able to harvest their first honey next spring then it will be collected, bottled and sold by the charity, paying them just above market rate (currently $7 a pound).

The beekeepers have the potential to earn earn more than $700 per hive, 20 hives could earn them $15,000 per season.

The trainees can also learn how to make candles, lip balm and other wax products to supplement their income further.

For a great hobby that requires minimal work from home, it can provide a steady supplement to the income of people who are struggling to make ends meet.

Beekeeper Paul Webb writes:

“It’s not common knowledge that the honey bee can only survive in many parts of the world due to the beekeeper,”

“Wild colonies have dwindled to the point of extinction due to modern agriculture. Huge expanses of land which now grow a single crop were once home to thousands of plants providing nectar and pollen for the honey bee and many other insects. Woodland has also disappeared, where traditionally a honey bee colony would find its home in the hollow trunk of a tree. This reduction of biodiversity, and decrease of animal populations has a huge environmental impact.”

“Sustaining honey bee numbers means the pollination of crops which otherwise could not be grown at all, or on a much smaller scale. Although some plants will be visited by many insect types, others can only be pollinated by the honey bee. They are an incredibly effective pollinator, when a source of pollen or nectar has been discovered by a scout bee, a large amount of the bees from that hive will soon visit the same plant multiple times. The bees will always pollinate the whole flower, which produces perfect fruit.”

What the charity is doing is absolutely incredible by giving out of work miners a steady income, and transforming the local bee population.

Beekeeping helps to ensure the survival of dwindling bee population by providing them with a safe place to live, and improves the biodiversity of our local ecosystems.