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The Buzz on Beekeeping at Graceland
Photo Credit: http://www.graceland.edu/blog/971374/pollinators-of-lamoni-a-guide-to-our-arthropod-allies

The Buzz on Beekeeping at Graceland

For those of you that don’t know, the Sustainability Crew here on campus has been steadily advancing in their efforts to construct a community beehive here in Lamoni. Those that are currently taking initiative on the project are Jen Abraham-White (Sustainability Coordinator), Caleb Torres (Student), and Alison Lancelotti (Student). Both of these student initiators have previous experience with beekeeping alongside friends and family which made this project all the more intriguingly possible for the Sustainability crew to take on.

At about the same time that the idea to bring bees to Graceland’s campus surfaced, a new type of beehive called a “flow hive” was developed in Australia. As opposed to the typical “box-and-frame” hive design and its very expensive, invasive process to extract honey, the “flow hive” is made out of a particularly exceptional type of plastic. This plastic is specially designed so that the hive is able to accordingly operate with its keyway, in which a large metal key is placed and turned. The turning of this key effectually separates the sides of the hive’s entryway, allowing the flow of the hive’s honey to drain.

Once the Sustainability Crew officially decided on pursuing their idea of community beekeeping, they began to draft letters to the Executive Council, as well as getting Enactus involved, so that they could secure a grant for the “flow hive” that they desired to work with. Approval for the project came at the end of the 2016-2017 academic year.

At the beginning of the current semester, the crew really set their plans into high gear, as their plans now are to have the placement of the bees and their hive completed here in Lamoni sometime on the earlier side of the Spring semester, once it warms up enough for the bees to safely inhabit their new home.

As far as exact placement goes, the plan is to keep the bees off-campus but still very much in the area – specifically, they will likely be kept in a clearing located somewhat across from the President’s house that will be able to supply adequate exposure to both sun and shade to accommodate for the needs of the bees’ cold-blooded nature.

While the crew has one hive ready to assemble as of right now, they hope to assemble another one once they are able to surpass current budget constraints. The crew is well-equipped with beekeeping suits as well as other necessary preventative materials so that they can jump right in and become active with the project as soon as it is made possible and once the weather is in line with the needs of the hives.

As of right now, the crew intends to harvest honey from the hives and share it with the community. They are looking into possibly making it available in The Swarm or Commons.

On the other hand, safety is surely a huge concern regarding this project, and those involved have taken this into serious consideration. This is why they decided it would be best to not place the bees directly on campus, as well as why they’ve decided to sort of tape off the area in which the bees do end up being placed. The crew also plans on posting adequate signage so that there is no confusion or misinformation, especially in cases of bee allergies. They would also like to point out that bees will not sting unless threatened and/or provoked, despite what many might believe about them, and they are not to be confused with the more ill-tempered, aggressive species of wasps. Of course, when actually working with the bees, it is to be expected that a sting may occur, as that is simply in their nature and can only be cautioned against, not fully prevented.

The beekeeping efforts of the Sustainability Crew have drawn a lot of attention and interest from the surrounding community already, and there are a fair number of locals who have expressed interest in volunteering and care-taking for the hives as needed.

If you are specifically interested in working on the bee project, whether you have experience working with bees or not, reach out! Contributing to the hives does not necessarily entail being up close and personal with the bees if that isn’t something that you would be comfortable with, there are many other ways to help out aside from that. Additionally, anyone looking for something to do over the Summer with an interest in bees is very welcome and encouraged to take on Summer positions for beekeeping.

The crew also accepts and greatly appreciates any other outside help that they can get, including donations (such as spare bee boxes/materials, monetary donations for such materials, etc… it all helps!). All costs for the project are directed straight to the Sustainability department and in no way affect the costs of students here at Graceland.

Furthermore, students Caleb Torres and Alison Lancelotti are working on a separate project; constructing a rain garden to be placed near the campus library as a shelter, similar to the idea and purpose of a birdhouse, but for insects instead.

As for anyone with an interest in getting involved and/or joining the crew, your best bet is to get in contact* with the Sustainability Coordinator on campus, Jen Abraham-White, as she is overseeing the projects. The sustainability program is always looking to bring in new members and volunteers, even for projects aside from the hives and the rain garden.

Also for anyone interested, the crew would like it to be mentioned that there are Sustainability courses available on campus such as Intro. to Sustainability, in which the bees will likely be used as a sort of learning tool for certain class concepts.


 

Special thanks to Jen Abraham-White, Caleb Torres, and Alison Lancelotti for contributing their time and information to make this article possible.

* Jen Abraham-White: abraham@graceland.edu

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