GVSU Beekeepers advocate for local honeybees

GVL / Courtesy - Tori Graves

GVL / Courtesy – Tori Graves

Theresa Mueller

As part of their hands-on efforts to help local honeybees, members of Grand Valley State University’s Beekeepers organization harvested, extracted and bottled more than 360 pounds of honey in early September.

In addition to their hands-on work, the GVSU Beekeepers continuously advocate for local pollinators. 

“The main goal of (GVSU Beekeepers) is to be an educational outreach for students who are either interested in keeping bees or just want to help pollinators in general,” said Megan Damico, a senior biomedical science major and president of GVSU Beekeepers. 

The GVSU Beekeepers fulfill most of their hands-on efforts through keeping five honeybee hives located at the GVSU Sustainable Agriculture Project and eight additional hives on the Meijer Campus in Holland. 

Additionally, GVSU Beekeepers occasionally work with the GVSU campus arborist to plant pollinator-friendly trees. Trees can often be better than the average flower garden, as they are a better food source for honeybees. 

A critical aspect of the GVSU Beekeepers advocacy of local bees is getting other students to care and educating students on why they should care. The Beekeepers do so through holding various events, such as “Teas and Bees,” throughout the year.

“When students learn more, they can do more,” said Troy Jones, a senior biomedical science major and vice president of GVSU Beekeepers. “Honeybee population is declining, and it’s serious. … One-third of our food source is directly related to honeybee population. So, to lose that through the work of this remarkable insect, it’s astronomical the consequences that would happen. 

“The issue isn’t just bees dying. It’s so much bigger than that.”

Among the members of GVSU Beekeepers, there is a wide variety of educational expertise. Members hold a variety of majors, including biology, business, liberal studies, art and so on. The diverse knowledge among members is considered a critical aspect of the organization.

“We want to bring in diverse knowledge to beekeeping,” Jones said. “With the great diversity that comes together for this central issue of honeybees, everybody can influence the conversation one way or another. This allows our message to be better received among other (nonmembers).” 

Consequently, GVSU Beekeepers can use their knowledge learned in the organization and apply it to other fields of education. In the 2017 winter semester, GVSU computer science students developed an application that directly helped GVSU Beekeepers organize data and follow patterns within the hive. 

“That’s what I value about our club: It’s not just environmental students; it’s everyone,” Damico said. “If you’re in business, how can you make a business model to be sustainable? Or if you’re going into education, interacting with pollinators and teaching kids about bees is great (and) is one of the most enjoyable things I have ever done. You can really just spread it to anything.”

Damico and Jones held similar initial feelings when they joined GVSU Beekeepers. Neither student joined the club expecting much, but they ended up finding themselves passionate and driven to help the small insect. 

“It’s so rewarding once you get involved. You just love it,” Jones said.

Damico hopes to see more students getting involved and taking more of a leadership role to see what they can do.

“Students should care about bees and pollination in general, not only because bees are something helping the world function as it is, but students are a very small fish in a big sea, and students can help something else small,” Damico added. “It’s also having sympathy for ‘the little guy’ and having empathy for the world.” 

GVSU Beekeepers are always accepting more students to get involved. Students can also learn more on the organization’s Facebook page. 

“Beekeeping club is what you make it,” Damico said. “You can come in and do hands-off work, but you can also become a beekeeper and bottle honey.”

To support the GVSU Beekeepers and local honeybees, bottles of honey are for sale in Room 324 of Lake Ontario Hall on the Allendale Campus and at the front desk at the Meijer Campus in Holland.