LANDSTUHL, Germany --- Public Health Command Europe employees Nina Gruhn, a senior microbiologist, and Candler Horton, an information technology specialist, share a rare hobby- both are beekeepers in their free time.

Nina Gruhn is one of more than 30 local nationals employed by Public Health Command Europe. As a senior microbiologist, one of her responsibilities is to receive food samples which are sold and consumed on military installations across Europe. Gruhn runs a variety of tests in the laboratory to determine if the samples are safe for consumption.

Even though her job duties and tasks vary, Gruhn spends most of her time working in the laboratory. Therefore she enjoys spending as much time as possible outdoors, enjoying nature.

"I've always found bees very intriguing," Gruhn said. "It's interesting to watch them, knowing that they all work together with a common goal in mind. As a bee, you are part of something bigger, much like working in the Army. As microbiologists we work out of sight of the community, but we lay the foundation for Soldier readiness by ensuring that the food is safe to eat and no foodborne illnesses go undetected or spread."

Gruhn remembers always having honey at her house while growing up. This was solely because her grandfather was a beekeeper. To continue the family tradition after her grandfather's passing, Gruhn followed his footsteps last year. It started out with one bee hive and within that single year she expanded to five hives.

"I have been with PHCE since 2008, but I only recently met a fellow beekeeper," Gruhn said. "It has been interesting to share my experience keeping bees in Germany with Candler (Horton) who owned bee hives in the U.S. before moving to Germany."
Horton enjoyed having a shared hobby with neighbors back in the United States and is looking forward to making new friends with beekeepers in Germany.

"One of my neighbors in Georgia had bees, which I found very interesting -- it is not a common hobby," Horton said. "My neighbor showed me his bee hive and I decided to enter the hobby myself."

Bees are not a major part of Public Health Command Europe's entomology focus but the staff recognize the importance of the local bee population.

"Since 2013, bee populations in various parts of the world have fallen by about a third," said Maj. Amanda Cline, Chief of Entomology at PHCE "It is best to plant flowering plants in your gardens or leave flower patches while mowing the lawn to support bee colonies when they are swarming in search of a hive."

Having bees in your garden might seem like a bad idea but it is lesser known that bees are generally harmless.

"Bees usually don't sting unless they feel threatened. You are more likely to be stung by a wasp or hornet while eating outside than by a bee," Gruhn said.

Nevertheless, Maj. Amanda Cline and Public Health Command Europe provide the following tips for anyone who gets stung by a stinging insect this summer:

1. Have someone stay with the individual to be sure that they do not have an allergic reaction.
2. Wash the site with soap and water.
3. Remove the stinger using gauze wiped over the area or by scraping a fingernail over the area.
Never squeeze the stinger or use tweezers.
4. Apply ice to reduce swelling.
5. Do not scratch the sting as this may increase swelling, itching, and risk of infection.