ANSBACH, Germany (July 25, 2019) -- Honey bees are the world's most important pollinator of food crops, with more than a third of all crop species in the U.S. reliant on them for pollination. In Germany, approximately 85 percent of crops are dependent on them.

However, honey bees are best known for producing honey.

The U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach's Environmental Management Division (EMD) celebrated its first ever honey festival with newly graduated class of beekeeper students at the Environmental Education Center on Urlas Kaserne July 24.

The Environmental Education Center, also known as the bee house, currently has four beehives with approximately 30,000 bees.

The eight graduates completed the German standard beekeeper's training under Norbert Hauer's tutelage. Hauer, a beekeeper and chairman of the Ansbach Beekeeper Club, was the student's beekeeping mentor.

"We would meet Norbert and get hands on experience and watch him work with his hives. It was very interesting," said Heather Forsberg, a graduate of the beekeeper's training. "He's not scared of getting stung by the bees at all."

Forsberg said she took the course because bees are important for the environment, but she also noted that they are a lot of work.

With the help of Hauer and Daniel Woernlein, an Environmental Protection Specialist with USAG Ansbach's Department of Public Work's EMD, the graduates collected the honeycombs from the four beehives.

The graduates transferred the honeycombs to the firefighting training center where they were able to extract approximately 20 pounds of honey.

The extraction process involves scraping the wax caps from the honeycombs and placing them in a centrifuge, which spins them to release the honey. The honey is then drained through a sieve to ensure there are no fragments left from the honeycomb.

This is the first bee project of its kind in U.S. Army Europe, said Woernlein. Three of the graduates are from the Hohenfels community where they hope to start a similar project.

The goal of the program is to establish a group of American and German beekeepers within the USAG Ansbach community, who will work together to care for the beehives.

The next beekeeper class is scheduled to begin in March 2020 and will include six training sessions.