The hill beside the Charles F. Dolan School of Business was humming with activity last year, as 10,000 Italian honey bees who arrived at the campus community garden in May blossomed to an estimated 50,000 by summer’s end.
“We need pollinators for all the vegetables in the garden, and that is where the bees come in,” said garden intern Jesus Nuñez ’14, a School of Nursing student. “I would say that we can expect greater yields of squash, tomatoes, and peppers this year thanks to them.”
With the troubling decline of the honeybee population nationwide due to pests, pesticides, and diminishing habitats, faculty members and campus bee fans thought it was time to install a man-made honeybee hive in the garden. The garden serves as an outdoor classroom to teach lessons in sustainability, soil nutrients, and plant growth in and out of courses like “Biology of Food” taught by Dr. Tod Osier, associate professor of biology.
“I see the arrival of the bees as another way to engage the University community on the issues of food production,” said Dr. Jennifer L. Klug, associate professor of biology, who directs the garden with Dr. Osier. “Bees play such an important role in pollination, as well as provide a locally produced sweetener. In addition, honey bees have a fascinating life history and social structure, and I hope that the hive can be used in some of our biology courses.”
Last spring, Advancement Program Coordinator Tess Brown ’07, MFA’11, donated three pounds of Italian honeybees purchased from an apiary in eastern Connecticut, and then the bee team constructed the wooden Langstroth moveable frame hive at the edge of the garden. An opening allows the bees to come and go as they please. “Actually, bees often fly about five miles from their food source, so they may very well be pollinating neighbors’ gardens, too,” said Nuñez.
The hive was “wrapped” for winter when bees don’t hibernate, but cluster to regulate the temperature and manage to keep it as warm as 90 degrees.