Article Written by Rachel Miles
Photo Courtesy of Brieannah Gouveia
The hum of bees causes the majority of col- lege students to jump from their chairs and run, jackets pulled over their heads or hands protecting their ears. A select few students, however, and a number that is growing, recently ran towards a swarm of bees on Roanoke’s campus.
This happened last week when a swarm of bees gathered in a tree outside the Colket Center.
While most made a wide loop around Bast and Colket to avoid the bees, junior Jane Rice, president of the college’s Beekeeping Society, ran toward the insects.
Rice, who has been involved in environmen- tal organizations since her early years at Roanoke, lit up when she talked about the club’s beehives and the bees that surround campus.
“I don’t see them [bees] as much as I’d like,” she said, when asked about Roanoke’s relationship with the honey-making insects. “I think the college could do something to change that, especially considering how much the bees do for us.”
She went on to de- scribe the mutual relation- ship between humans and bees.
Bees are the key pollinator of not only the owers and plant life that students enjoy around campus, but also of the fruit and veg- etables that can be found in Kroger, Commons and the RC garden. To propa- gate this relationship, hu- mans can provide a healthy and happy environment in which bees can pollinate. This can be done by mini- mizing the use of pesticides and maximizing the pres- ence of owers that nourish the bees, and, at the very least, are not invasive to the plants that do.
This is the type of rela- tionship that Rice is hoping the college will participate in more and more.
First, she said she wants to facilitate conver- sations with Building and Grounds and President Mike Maxey about creating this kind of atmosphere on campus.
Returning to the topic of the swarm that was no- ticed on campus last week, Rice had a strong response. “I was so ecstatic,” she said about the wild bees. She said she wishes others had felt the same.
“I mean, if you’re al- lergic, maybe keep your distance, but if you don’t harm them then they won’t harm you,” Rice said.
She admitted that the instinct to jump when pre- sented with the buzzing in- sect was natural, but could be overcome.
“It took about three years for me to overcome the urge [to react with fear]. Once when I was visiting a hive with [former BKP Pres- ident] David Hall, he got really excited when this bee landed on him, like really, really excited. I remember thinking, ‘wow, that’s how I want to be,’” Rice said.
While the swarm on campus may have seemed alarming to many, bees when swarming are actu- ally even less dangerous, because they aren’t threat- ened, she said.
When a swarm forms, it is because the group of bees is separating from their old hive and searching for a new one of their own. It is a natural process and does not indicate any type of aggressive behavior Jane added.
“It is swarm season, but if anyone sees a swarm… call your local beekeepers; they’d be thrilled. We tried to catch the swarm on cam- pus, but it was gone by the time we got there.”
She went on to share that if they had captured the swarm, they would have prepared a hive and added them as a separate colony that the BKP would look after.
“When I ask people about their first experi- ence with bees, most people talk about when they were young and they got stung,” she said. “I want to change that, hopefully giving peo- ple a positive experience with the bees.”
The BKP meets every other week to check in on the hive at RC’s garden, on the corner of Hawthorne Road and High Street. There, they look for mites and moths which can de- stroy hives, and keep their own hives from swarming by making sure they have plenty of room to grow.
Rice encouraged any- one interested in joining the Beekeeping Society to talk with her or visit the club’s Facebook page.
“Overall, I just want to change the culture of being bee conscious for the sake of these little critters that contribute so much to our society,” she said.