Buzz on the bees: Info on the beehive bee-ing installed on campus

Recently, students have learned that the Biology Department plans to install a beehive on campus later this year. Chris Palahniuk, lab manager for the Biology Department and one of the heads of the project, gives the what, where, why, who, how and goal of the beehive.

What is the project and where will the hive be located? The BioClub, along with a few other helpers, will be taking a new colony of honey bees and giving them a home atop the Fontbonne GreenRoof. It will start with two hives in the middle of April, and if the location is good and the bees have enough to eat, it will expand to more hives.

Kristy Allen on the Fontbonne GreenRoof with roughed in spots of where hives will go.

Kristy Allen on the Fontbonne GreenRoof with roughed in spots of where hives will go.


Why build a beehive on campus?
“An alum of St. Kate’s, Claire Lande—an artist, a bee researcher and a beekeeper herself—came to visit and we were talking about the plight of bees,” says Chris Palahniuk. “You may have heard that bees (both honey bees and native bees) are having a tough time for a few reasons, mostly because of loss of habitat, pesticide use and a mite infestation in hives. Given that one-third of our food is directly available because of insect pollination, the loss of pollinators could have terrible consequences. So Claire and I decided to highlight this issue to the Biology Department by using one of Claire’s drawings for a shirt [see picture] and to show a documentary. From there, our Bio Club ran with the idea, and soon we were talking about getting our own hive.”

The front of the shirt Bioclub is selling, featuring Claire's Honey Bee drawing.

The front of the shirt BioClub is selling, featuring Claire’s Honey Bee drawing.

The back of the shirt Bioclub is selling.

The back of the shirt BioClub is selling.

Who is a part of the project? BioClub “has been pivotal” says Palahniuk. The Food Justice Coalition and the environmental chairs on student senate have been working closely with the project, as well as Jennifer Tacheny, the keeper of the CSJ community garden. The hive itself will be installed by Kristy Allen of The Beez Kneez, a local company. Palahniuk said that the St. Kate’s Biology department “signed a contract with Allen to be [their] apiary partner. She will own the hive, do the primary maintenance on the hive and harvest honey from the hive that will be called ‘Honeyapolis St. Catherine University #55105’. This relationship is important because Kristy is a master beekeeper and has many urban beehives already. She also runs the ‘Healthy Bees, Healthy Lives’ campaign which draws attention to the plight of pollinators and educates the public in beekeeping through Camp Beez Kneez.”

How can students help? Students will not be able to work with the hive hands on, due to the insurance provider of the University and the nature of bees (they sting to protect the hive.) But Palahniuk says there are many other ways students can be involved. “We will have a live bee-cam (check in anytime with much thanks to our IT folks led by John Jeries and Michael Cavalli) and the hive will be visible through a window in Fontbonne. Kristy will also wear a camera when she is working with our hive and we will post the video for students to see. Finally, our honey bees can be monitored by students from the ground level and may even involve studies of bee visits and other data collection. It should be mentioned that this is just the initial year of the hive and we can grow into many avenues by continuing to work with Kristy and The Beez Kneez.”

What is the goal of the project? “We have been trying to educate the St. Kate’s community about our hive, of course, but also about the bigger issues with bees, pollinators and environmental justice as food availability is a human right. BioClub and our student group partners have been running an information campaign all of March. We have been tabling with info cards with bee facts and selling Beeologist shirts. We also showed the documentary ‘More Than Honey’ in The Pulse. If we can start the conversations here, hopefully a broader and deeper understanding will develop. Our hive can be a symbol of the care and attention we need to be paying to our environment literally for our own survival.”

Annette Hayes and Lauren Webster at a tabling info session.

Annette Hayes and Lauren Webster at a tabling info session.

For any further questions, contact Chris Palahniuk at cgpalahniuk@stkate.edu.

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