During Sarah Dawson's Wildlife Conservation for a Change Planet course, students were introduced to several speakers that work in different areas of environmental preservation. One of these speakers, Pennsylvania Master Apiarist Dennis vanEngelsdorp, made quite an impression on one student. Veronica Thomas 11' was so taken with the idea of studying bees and causes of their worldwide collapse that she proposed the creation of a honeybee apiary at Franklin & Marshall College. She applied for the Dean's Office's annual Sustainability Award and was awarded enough funding to get the project started.
In Ronnie's own words:
"Honeybees have been studied for many years for many different purposes. As social insects, they provide a unique framework for answering questions and conducting experiments. They have been studied by molecular biologists, bee keepers, and behavioral ecologists, among other disciplines.
Honeybees are vital members of any ecosystem, and promoting the existence of honeybees provides a myriad of benefits to the surrounding community. As important pollinators, they are directly or indirectly responsible for pollinating up to a third of our food crops. In recent years, honeybee populations have been dropping, and much research is still being done to examine the many causes of this collapse.
The proposed apiary, or bee yard, will provide a valuable opportunity to Franklin and Marshall students and faculty to become involved in a new way to help the environment, learn about local agricultural practices and to provide research opportunities for students. In particular, I would be interested in examining foraging strategies in honeybees, and how bees preferentially forage for nutritional value and reduced risk of predation.
The installation of a honeybee hive at Franklin and Marshall would provide many other benefits to the school. The hive will be located at Baker Campus so as to provide the benefit of pollinator activity to the organic gardens located there. It would also provide benefits to the surrounding community members for the same reasons. Once the hive established itself, it would also provide honey. This is a valuable commodity that could be used on campus. Finally, by raising honeybees, Franklin and Marshall can augment declining honeybee populations."