In the winter of 2019, Noah Wichlacz was on a mission.
Wichlacz, then a freshman, tended to his very first beehive, a hobby that grew out of his fascination with the science of beekeeping and his desire to try something new.
But, as temperatures fell to their coldest seasonal lows, Wichlacz suffered the tragic loss of its entire hive, amid Eden’s harsh climate.
He says the experience motivated him to come back stronger the following winter and taught him a number of lessons about beekeeping and life.
“The biggest thing I have learned over my years is that the community behind beekeeping is much bigger than I expected, and most people are really nice and honestly looking for advice on how to successfully manage settlements, “Wichlacz said in an interview with Spectrum.
Wichlacz isn’t the only UB student to be fascinated by his buzzing friends. UB Bees, a club dedicated to educating students about sustainability and science through beekeeping conferences, workshops and activities, started dealing with beehives in 2019. The organization was able to secure an Honors College Research and Creativity Grant fund of $ 5,000 for the project. UB Sustainability also provided $ 1,000 in seed funding and found a location for the beehives near Crofts Hall on the North Campus. Today, UB Bees has 15 combinations of beekeepers and six beehives to maintain.
“We are delighted to see UB Bees continue to grow,” said Derek Nichols, UB Sustainability Engagement Coordinator. “With their location next to the campus garden, we want to solidify this area of the campus as a demonstration mini food system. “
UB Bees director David Hoekstra says devoting resources to sustainable practices like beekeeping is well worth the investment.
“On average, around 40% of honey bee hives do not survive the winter, and it is estimated that we have lost around 75% of insect biomass over the past 30 years,” Hoekstra said, explaining the environmental benefits of beekeeping. .
The response from students has been “overwhelming” so far, says Hoekstra. Hoekstra says that before the pandemic, he went to the hive every week for wintering, treatment and maintenance. Now that there are more opportunities for students to engage in person, he is optimistic the club will grow.
“To be honest, I wasn’t sure that having hundreds or thousands of bees would help the students relax,” Hoekstra said. “Still, everyone who has walked in and out of the hives feels rejuvenated and much more relaxed than when they walked in, which is fun because having bees flying around you can be stressful.
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“I think the students benefit tremendously from going out into a semi-wilderness area, experiencing nature / wildlife, and completely changing their minds and focusing on handling bees (instead of the upcoming tests and articles) ), which is why it has been so useful for so many students.
Wichlacz says the act of beekeeping goes far beyond just extracting honey.
“Once you get into the bees, it’s almost like opening a box of worms because you find out there are so many things you need to do,” Wichlacz said. “There’s so much research going on and there’s a pretty cool industry behind it that I don’t think most people realize it.”
UB Bees hosted a honey bottling event last Wednesday in conjunction with the UB Student Engagement Office. About 20 students were present to write uplifting notes and to package and bottle the honey for donation. The club donated over 100 bottles of honey to Blue Table, UB’s virtual pantry service. Hoekstra says the event “worked so efficiently that we were also able to bottle an additional 100 jars of honey to sell to the community later this fall.”
UB Bees is busy coming up with new ideas: new research projects, environmental awareness workshops and beeswax lip balm are on the horizon. Hoekstra even plans to teach a one-credit module that focuses on pollinator biology next fall.
As for the bees?
“The vision is to find long-term funding from UB to support us,” Hoekstra said. “We hope to one day provide campus food services with a healthy supply of honey for use on campus. “
Jack Porcari is the Senior News / Articles Editor and can be reached at [email protected]
Jack Porcari is Senior News / Articles Editor at Spectrum. He graduated in political science with a minor in journalism. In addition to writing and editing, he enjoys playing the piano, flow arts, reptiles, and activism.