Bees are all the buzz around campus

Bees+buzz+around+on+the+fourth+floor+of+the+Union.+Photo+by+Brent+Uberty.

Brent Uberty

Bees buzz around on the fourth floor of the Union. Photo by Brent Uberty.

Bees buzz around on the fourth floor of the Union. Photo by Brent Uberty.
Bees buzz around on the fourth floor of the Union. Photo by Brent Uberty.
There is a lot of buzz around the U, both from the students and the bees.
The Union fourth floor is currently home to active beehives. The project has since spread to the Marriott Library with approximately 10 to 12 hives each season.
Tom Bench, a graduate student in environmental sustainability, began his beekeeping journey at the U in the spring of 2012. This next season will be his fourth. Bench said there are a number of reasons why bees and beekeeping are important, and No. 1 is honey.
Bench said students at the U can enjoy the honey production from the Union’s hives. The bees also pollinate the U’s student gardens, creating even more produce.
For students, Bench said, the most important asset the bees offer is an educational experience. The next goal for the project is to incorporate research opportunities for students that involve climate change and nectar flows.
Bench also said industrial agriculture is a threat to killing bees with harsh pesticides. The Beekeeping Ordinance, passed in 2009, aided the problem by allowing bees to be kept legally. Beekeeping has since quadrupled, Bench said.
Kirstie Kandaris, a senior in biology, has been involved in the bee program since it began. She is the vice president for the program and is in charge of community outreach and recruitment.
“I was in love with it right away,” Kandaris said.
Her favorite part of watching the bees is the “complex symbolic language” of the insects. She said the bees speak through something called a “bee waggle dance.” The language of dance is spoken by how the bees turn and how fast they waggle. The direction they’re facing is the direction where food is, and the faster they waggle, the further the food is.
She said the beehives “promote a healthy lifestyle in every sense,” adding to the U’s green campus. Kandaris also believes the project is educational for students and children who are involved in the Bio Kids Program on campus. She loves watching a child go from fearing the bees to finding them amazing to watch and discover.
Amy Sibul, a faculty advisor for the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund and a service learning coordinator in the Department of Biology, which houses the bee program’s funding, resides over Bench and provides emotional support for the program.
“I think that this has so much value,” Sibul said.
Sibul encourages students to watch the beehives when they are on campus. She said students can attend weekly inspections of the hives standing just two feet away — with the bees safely behind glass.
The project also offers a university course each season, consisting of a two- to three-hour class period once a week where students can experience hands-on learning with bees.
There will be a kick-off in late March where students can learn more about the project, and harvesting will begin in June or July.
Additionally, the Marriott Library is hosting a lecture today about beekeeping. Francis Whitby, a biochemistry professor, will be speaking about the U’s Beekeeper’s Association at noon.
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