The sight of fuzzy, golden honey bees, swooping from flower to flower in Goucher’s rain garden, galvanized Olivia Baud ’19 and Virginia Turpin ’18 to found the Goucher Beekeeping Club. “We noticed the bees hovering around the flowers,” Baud says. “We began talking about their plight and realized that we were both passionate about these often misunderstood insects, and we wanted to do something to help.”
In the last decade, honey bees have been dying at an inexplicably high rate. Although the cause of the bee deaths is uncertain, scientists cite pesticides, unusually warm winters, a type of mites, and Colony Collapse Disorder, a syndrome in which adult bees vanish from a colony leaving behind a live queen, honey, and immature bees as possible contributing factors.
Although honey bees aren’t endangered, the decrease in their population is cause for concern because the insects play a critical role in agriculture and the environment. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture website, honey bee pollination is directly or indirectly involved in the production of one in every three mouthfuls of food we eat.
The Goucher Beekeeping Club, which was launched in November, is dedicated to educating the public about bees—and bolstering pollination around campus. Baud and Turpin relied on the Central Maryland Beekeepers’ Association, as well as knowledgeable members of the Goucher community, for know-how and resources.
“We really wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without the support of FMS [Facilities Management Services], which worked with us every step of the way,” Turpin says. “We had overwhelmingly positive support from the community.” Help also came from the Goucher Ag-Co-op and Baltimore County resident and longtime beekeeper Marjorie Pryse, who is married to Goucher Provost Leslie Lewis. (Club funding came from the Goucher Student Government and the Green Fund. In addition to volunteering her time, Pryse donated the hive boxes.)
On a sunny Sunday in April, club members donned beekeeper suits, gloves, and veils and established an apiary with two hives (one blue and one yellow) adjacent to the rain garden on the southeast side of the Ungar Athenaeum. Using smoke from burning pine needles to soothe the bees, they placed a frame complete with a queen and her worker bees in each hive. Until the bees get settled in, the club will provide them with nectar from which the insects can produce wax to “draw out” comb on the frames, making room for the queen to lay more eggs and for the workers to store honey and pollen to feed their brood. “Our first goal is that the bees will survive the year. Maryland has a mortality rate of 60 percent [for bees], and this time next year, we hope to have at least one hive surviving. Two would be fantastic,” Baud says. In the meantime, the future looks sweet; club members have brainstormed about ways to extract honey in the years to come and potentially collaborate with groups on campus, including food provider Bon Appétit.