In Spring 2020, shortly before Lewis & Clark was shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic, Students Engaged in Eco-Defense (SEED) embarked on a project to start a bee garden on campus. During the previous semester, club leader Mateo Kaiser ’23 had successfully campaigned for money from the Associated Student Body (ASB) Finance Committee to fund the creation of a bee garden. With two grants from ASB, in addition to annual club funds, SEED was ready to bring bees to LC.
The organization purchased a Flow Hive, which allows beekeepers to easily collect honey through a spigot without disturbing the bees. They staked out a plot of land on the Graduate Campus and planted local wildflowers for the bees to pollinate. Lastly, they brought in the bees themselves, bought from a local beekeeper, in a box called a “nuc” with mesh frames for the bees to build honeycombs on. The queen was later delivered in a mesh box and introduced to the worker bees.
Then the pandemic struck. Seniors who remained on campus over the summer were tasked with the bee garden’s regular upkeep, and by August, the hive was thriving.
“We’re really lucky to have the funding to keep this up because it’s super fun,” Cassidy Floyd-Driscoll ’24 said.
The club members often need to check for mites, which can spread disease among the bees. Jack Waite ’23 scoops up bees in a measuring cup, shakes them in a jar full of powdered sugar and then checks the sugar for black specks after returning the bees to the hive. According to Waite, this method is humane.
“(The bees do) get all covered with the powdered sugar, but when you put them back, their sister bees just lick them off, and they’re fine,” Waite said.
If Waite finds enough mites, the club does a formic acid treatment, laying pads throughout the hive that bear a noxious substance. Club members wear full-body beekeeper suits when they work on the hive. According to Floyd-Driscoll, nobody has ever gotten stung while working with the bees.
In spring 2021, after the garden had been going strong for about a year, SEED had a bigger problem than mites. While getting ready to welcome a second hive to the bee garden, having already purchased a new Flow Hive, Floyd-Driscoll noticed concerning signs in the first hive.
“There were signs of swarming in there,” Floyd-Driscoll said. “We saw some new queen cells.”
This indicated that the bees were raising a new queen, which meant that some bees were likely days away from leaving and starting a new hive. Worried that this would leave their hive without enough bees to keep the colony self-sustaining, SEED members quickly bought a third hive and transferred the new queen there to prevent most of the bees from leaving. The transfer was a success, but to Floyd-Driscoll’s surprise, the original hive split again just days later, with half of its remaining bees swarming off for good.
Nonetheless, there were still enough bees in both hives to form self-sustaining colonies, and the new Flow Hive was stocked with newly acquired bees shortly after. In the span of weeks, SEED had gone from having one beehive to three.
SEED has begun weatherproofing their hives for the winter. Over Halloween weekend, Floyd-Driscoll removed the honey super, a box that collects honey, from the hives.
“We had to take that off because (the bees) didn’t fill it with enough honey, so that just helps them insulate a bit more,” Floyd-Driscoll said.
So far, none of the hives have started producing honey at a regular rate. When they do, SEED plans to sell the honey for affordable and highly negotiable prices at the Co-op on campus. There is also talk of selling it in the campus bookstore.