A few years ago, we learned that the global population of honey bees was on the decline. Farmers and ecologists alike are concerned about the disappearance of the bees because they play a crucial role in pollinating our food.
It was in the wake of beehive collapse that student Thomas Bench, with the help of the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund (SCIF), was able to construct two hives on the 4th floor of the Union in 2012. These initial hives piqued so much interest that the University of Utah Campus Beekeepers Association was founded a year later by student Stephen Stanko. In 2014, the student group received a second SCIF grant to expand the campus hive system. With this money, they were able to construct new hives at the Marriott Library, purchase the proper equipment, and involve more students. The program was such a success that they were able to start an adult education program in order to teach more people about the importance of bees and beehives to local food production.
It was on the heels of so much success that Stanko recently applied for and received a third SCIF grant for $15,280. With this grant, Stanko aims to further pursue the Beekeepers Association’s three pronged mission: pollination, education, and research. The third round of funding will help recover from previous hive losses to ensure that the U bees continue play an important role in pollinating our campus. Pollination is especially important because the campus itself is a landscape in which we here at the U participate. It is in this landscape that we can find ways to move forward in a world with a very uncertain future. Sadly, despite the success of clubs like the Campus Beekeeping Association around the world, bee populations are down while bee mortality rate is on the rise. It is in the face of global decline that beehive communities, like the ones here are campus, are crucial for both ecology and education.
Due to the burgeoning buzz over the beekeeping association the educational program has expanded and now teaches elementary students about the environmental benefits of bees. With the recent SCIF funding the association also plans to create a Community Engaged Learning (CEL) component that will be added to the undergraduate entomology course. In addition to the formal educational components of the Association they are now set to be one of the largest bee clubs in the state. Recently, two of the largest bee clubs along the Wasatch Front fell apart. This dissolution left a number of members without a beekeeping club and the U of U association aims to absorb these members. This transformation will make the bees here on campus a center for education and research.
The latest SCIF grant will also help fund research projects that will use the campus hives. With the right equipment, researchers here at the U, in tandem with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, will be able to accurately determine the start of the spring nectar flow. The timing of the nectar flow is an indicator for the shifting seasons, and the proposed research can help to confirm NASA’s climate models. Other research will include studying the metabolic health of a hive, as well as pesticide tests that will help bring understanding to the phenomena of hive loss. These research projects have the potential to help understand how hives operate and hopefully provide clues as to how to prevent the vanishing of the bees.
It is projects like the beehives that can change the world around us. According to Stanko’s proposal, what started out as two beehives will soon become one of the largest beekeeping clubs in Utah.
“While we don’t have the ability to shape policy on the national level, the U of U Beekeepers Association aims to make a difference in our community,” says Stanko.
Emerson Andrews is the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund coordinator for the Sustainability Resource Center. Want to learn more about the grants? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.