Gonzaga University has been certified as an affiliate of the national bee promotions program, Bee Campus USA.
Gonzaga has two beehives on the rooftop terrace at the newly constructed Hemmingson Center, and another hive at the Bozarth Mansion.
Chuck Faulkinberry, the director of the Hemmingson Center, is a certified beekeeper and so is Dan Harris, who helps take care of the bees.
On Monday, four students dressed in full bee-protective gear, watched as Harris checked on the hives and added a frame to one of them.
“It took a long time for us to get permission to have the bees here,” Harris said. “The school was worried the bees would swarm down and attack students.”
But bees are too busy for that, Harris said. Bees are even too busy to bother students and faculty who eat lunch on the roof terrace, next to the raised flower beds full of bee-friendly plants like lavender, thyme and oregano.
“They just want to make honey,” Harris said, while students cautiously watched him take the top off one of the apiaries on the roof terrace.
Harris and Faulkinberry both do bee tours for students.
It’s still somewhat early in the bee season, which Harris said lasts just about four months.
Last year, the two colonies produced about 45 pounds of honey, which was given away as a special treat from Gonzaga, marked Hemmingson Honey.
Gonzaga University President Thayne McCulloh said in a statement that the Bee Campus USA designation shows Gonzaga’s commitment to a healthy ecosystem. “Our faculty, staff and students have embraced the call for us individually and collectively to be good stewards of the Earth’s resources.”
Harris estimated there are about 10,000 bees in the colonies at this time of year, but by the end of summer there may be as many as 70,000.
“Our goal is to teach the students about bees,” Harris said. “Beekeepers tend to be older, and we need some young people to get involved.”
One threat to bees is increased chemical use in their environments. In a press release, Gonzaga announced that it’s trying to introduce more pollinators on campus and that it has cut down or eliminated the use of lawn and yard chemicals that are considered harmful to bees.
“If the bees die, they take us with them,” Harris said. “We need to learn how to grow the food we need without using pesticides.”
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