By Sarah Lappé, Sustainability Office communications coordinator
The campus is not only buzzing with students returning to kick off the new semester; it is also buzzing with bees! With National Honeybee Day this Saturday, it is a great time to celebrate and to raise awareness about our campus bees.
Our beautiful campus landscaping attracts pollinators and provides a home for naturally occurring honeybees hives. Providing habitat for bees grows more imperative as declines are reported in both wild and managed honeybee populations. Since 2012, the University has been home to several human-managed beehives. The number of hives has grown over the years, and now the U has over 20 hives in three locations: the A. Ray Olpin Union, the Eccles Health Sciences Library, and the Marriott Library.
Students who are part of the University of Utah Beekeeper’s Association manage these hives. This group received grants from the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund, which helped to fund the launch of the program and several expansions. In addition to expanding the hives, the student group has also built collaborative relationships on campus. One example of this mutually beneficial relationship is seen at Marriott Library, where the beeswax harvested from the hives is used for binding books as part of a class taught at the library.
Amy Sibul, associate instructor and community engagement coordinator for the Biology Department, is the faculty sponsor for the University of Utah Beekeeper’s Association. We recently chatted about her role supporting our campus bees. Sibul helps with funding, recruiting, learning opportunities, maintaining hives, and even harvesting honey. Sibul’s passion for bees made her a perfect fit for working with this student group.
“I have always loved bees,” Sibul explains, “not just honeybees but the other 20,000 species of bees globally. ” She pointed out that there are only seven species of honeybees.
Sibul thinks National Honeybee Day is important for awareness: “It is a well-known fact that one out of every three of our food bites is thanks to pollination via honeybees. I think the focus of this year should be on our understanding that we are dependent upon honeybees, but the honeybees, especially those that are human-managed, are very dependent on humans being environmental conscientious. When we spray pesticides on our garden, they kill insects including bees, so we need to be careful. We need to be aware of our impacts.”
This student-led organization is always interested in getting more students involved. Participants can gain skills in environmental outreach and education, learn how to keep their own bees, or conduct research. Plus, they have all the protective gear needed! Follow the group on Facebook or contact Amy Sibul to learn more about getting involved.