KPU Students Look to Help Save the Bees Both In and Out of the Classroom

Solitary beehives will soon be buzzing on-campus

Bee_Renee.Hawk

(Renee Hawk, Flickr Creative Commons)

In response to predictions that bees may face extinction due to a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder, the KSA Special Committee of Environmental Sustainability is working to create beehives on KPU’s Surrey campus.

Unlike most bees, however, the ones in these hives will prefer a little privacy.

“We have lots of [bees] that burrow into the ground and lay their eggs [there], or burrow into wood and have little holes,” says Murdoch de Mooy, former chairperson of the Special Committee of Environmental Sustainability. “They take mud and make it into a little wall and they just fill up their hole; egg, wall, egg, wall, and that’s it.”

Solitary bees don’t live together in colonies, or even need a queen. Instead, they burrow individually into hives that can be constructed out of wood by KPU students, or purchased from a woodworking store.

De Mooy got the idea for a solitary beehive at KPU while attending the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s conference in Baltimore.

“Bees are having horrible population problems,” says de Mooy. “It’s been one of those things that has constantly been a threat. When I found out about solitary bees, they don’t pollinate any less than colonies. They just travel more. But no one ever thinks about them. There’s something we could do that’s very small scaled but we could make a big impact.”

John Gibeau is the instructor of KPU’s commercial beekeeping program, and while the program focuses mainly on bee colonies, he shares de Mooy’s concern about the population problems bees are facing.

“Over the past 10 years, there has been a shortage of bees each season to satisfy the demand for blueberry pollination in the Lower Mainland,” Gibeau said in an article from the KPU Newsroom back in June. “There is also a high demand for ‘locally’ produced honey all around North America. Consumers want local bee products but beekeepers can’t currently meet consumer demands.

According to KPU Newsroom’s report, it was this shortage and the corresponding demand for bees that prompted KPU to launch B.C.’s first commercial beekeeping program back in 2016. Students learn the skills required to manage up to 300 bee colonies during the 11 months of this program.

The program is conducted in three sessions that mirror the annual beekeeping cycle in British Columbia. Students study honeybee biology and integrated pest management from January to May, and are privy to the trades skills involved in beekeeping: carpentry, forklift operation and welding.

Over the summer, students participate in either a full-time paid internship with an established commercial beekeeper in Western Canada, or in a part-time work term with KPU and the Honeybee Centre. Students learn the skills needed to operate their own business from September to December.

KPU is not the only one trying to protect Canada’s bee population. According to their website, SumOfUs is “a community of people from around the world committed to curbing the growing power of corporations.” They’ve created a petition to gather signatures to “save the bees. For good.”

Their goal is to send 100K messages to Health Canada and Health Minister Jane Philpott asking her to ban the bee-killing neonic pesticide imidacloprid, which is one of the most widely used bee-killing pesticides in the world. This is not unprompted as Health Canada announced that they will be taking public comments on the issue until Feb. 21, 2017.

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