Eastern Welcomes 20,000 Honeybees to Campus

St. Davids, PA, April 26, 2012: On April 25, Eastern University increased its population by nearly 20,000, and the increase could swell to 100,000 over the next few months. The growth comes in the form of honeybees. The Eastern University Earthkeepers Club committed several hundred dollars to purchase two hives of bees that will live on campus.  The 20,000 bees were purchased along with beekeeping equipment and wooden boxes to house and maintain them. The Club hopes to do its part to protect what has become an endangered species as the decline of honeybees places at risk the many species of plants that depend on the bees’ pollination.

According to Eastern senior sociology and biology major Austin Martin, the problem is global in scope. Experts aren’t sure, for example, what lies behind the phenomenon that has been labeled “Colony Collapse Disorder,” wherein communities of honeybees suddenly die out. Some place the blame on various viruses and diseases; some blame pesticides; a few have cited cell phone waves as a contributing factor. Whatever the cause (or causes), “honeybees are incredibly ecologically and agriculturally important, so ensuring their survival is critical,” says Martin, who last summer worked as a professional apiary (honeybee hive) inspector for the PA Department of Agriculture.

It was Martin’s idea to import honeybees to Eastern University, a Christian University near Philadelphia, PA.  Martin joined forces with the University’s Earthkeepers Club to make the purchase. The bees came from a vendor in Berks County, the wooden boxes from an Amish farmer in Lancaster County. If the bees stay healthy, their numbers will likely grow to some 100,000 by the end of summer.

For at least the next several months, Martin will serve as chief beekeeper and will train others to care for the bees as well. “The beekeeper’s job,” he says, “is to make sure the bees are healthy and that the queen is healthy and laying eggs.” The job includes feeding the bees a solution of sugar and water when the flow of plant nectar on which the bees feed slows down late in the summer. Martin adds, “It’s also important to clean the equipment to keep it free from pathogens or viruses that could harm the bees.”

Martin is fully confident that honeybees are completely harmless unless provoked and that it will be virtually impossible to provoke them accidentally: “They’re in a secure location near one of the University’s ponds where there’s no mowing or weed whacking. And there are signs to make sure everyone in the area knows the bees are there.”

Provided the bees stay healthy, honey could be ready for harvest as early as the summer of 2013. But more important to Martin and his like-minded Eastern earthkeepers is the goal of growing the honeybee population.
About Eastern University
Eastern University is a Christian university that enrolls about 4,400 students in its undergraduate, graduate, Seminary, international, urban and professional degree programs. All education at Eastern University is rooted in its core values of faith, reason and justice.

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