By Rachel Miles
The last weekend of March was an important one for BKP, the beekeeping society at Roanoke College, when members setup their first hives. The Beekeeping Society began during the fall semester with a small group of students dedicated to the idea and philosophies that surrounded a project such as starting a hive. President Tyler Quigley related the story of the society’s origins as we traveled to one of the sites to visit the newly established hive and see if we could locate the queen. Quigley explained what drew him to create the club. It stemmed from a combination of his own interest in biology, specifically social insects. His cousin, who is highly active in the environment and works with an apiary, also inspired him. Quigley said, his cousin actually challenged him to create a club and a hive on the campus, and he took this challenge to heart.
The idea became a club when its other founding members got involved. Kasiani Beja, Alejandro Menjivar, Jeremy Peavey, Tiffany Cassidy, and Melissa Eckert became the officers of the budding club, but they were quickly joined by others as word spread about the new environmental club on campus. Quigley notes that without their dedication and support, the club never could have taken off as it did. In the upcoming year, member David Hall will become the new president of the organization, when Quigley leaves to further pursue his passion for beekeeping at graduate school in Arizona.
The club itself meets on Monday nights at 9 p.m. in West Hall and concerns much more than just their namesake, as they tackle environmental issues, philosophical concepts, and other topics with complimentary tea and honey. During the meetings there are often opportunities for creative writing, sharing information, and learning from didactics put on by different members of the group. Now that there is a hive located off-campus, as well as one on the new garden plot on Hawthorne Drive, there are also opportunities for club members to visit and learn more about them through direct experience.
Both hives arrived in the last two weeks, and BKP has been watching closely as they settle in. The honeybees originated from an apiary in Georgia, and most likely from different hives. Despite their different origins, they are all unified by the queen. This same principle is applied when a hive grows too large – a new queen is created and followed by a group of bees to form a new hive. They became dedicated to their queen, and while they may visit other hives for the purpose of stealing honey, they do not leave their queen. Their social structure is so detailed that their numbers remain relatively consistent, unless they are growing to fill increased space. When foragers die, more bees are triggered to take over this job.
When we arrived at the site, the honeybees were gathered around the opening of the hive. We used a tool purchased by BKP known as the smoker, which can be used to pump smoke into the air around the bees, triggering a calming reaction. This made them slightly more docile when we removed the lid and checked each of the slides. We identified drones and worker bees. Surrounded by the honeycomb and the pine needles burning in the smoker, Quigley shared his opinion that the smells associated with beekeeping are all the best smells. “A bee is made of pollen and nectar,” he said as he pulled out a slide, a couple bees crawling onto his hands, “which both interact to create a creature that can think and interact and communicate.”
The future of the bee club looks promising with the two hives and the new members who have joined the club. While honey probably will not be harvestable until late next semester (in order for the bees to have enough honey for themselves), there is opportunity over the next few months to watch them grow and expand, while continuing to learn as much as possible. Quigley invites any students interested in talking with other intellectuals about nature and philosophy; all are welcome to join the BKP on Monday nights.