Chatham University

Sustainability & the Environment

New Eden Hall Campus residents are literally "busy as bees"

Eden Hall Campus Apiary

Bees normally co-exist very peacefully with their human friends. However, they have great weapons to protect themselves if they feel threatened. Hence, we must be prepared. Professors Kerri LaCharite and Sherie Edenborn modeling two different types of protective clothing, a bee veil (on the right) and a bee jacket (on the left).
Photo Credit: Sherie Edenborn

Who knew that the installation of the first official apiary, or beehive, at Chatham University’s Eden Hall Campus could generate so much excitement?

Sherie Edenborn, Ph.D., assistant professor of microbiology; Kerri LaCharite, theater department director and organic gardening instructor; Gary Marshall, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology; and Kathleen Sullivan, assistant professor of interior architecture, worked together to install the apiary in early June, and the enthusiasm in their voices still resonates when they describe the project.

"I wanted to install an apiary because Eden Hall Campus is a showcase for sustainability," Kerri says. "Being able to harvest local honey is part of the allure but the bees will also be the primary pollinators for our organic garden and small orchard.

"What’s more, bees are an easy ‘livestock’ to maintain…they are low-maintenance and are necessary for much of our food."

And how does one exactly purchase and install an apiary?

Leave that to Dr. Marshall, whom both Kerri and Dr. Edenborn refer to as "the bee guy." Dr. Marshall raises bees and so has learned a great deal about bees over the years. He arranged for the purchase of a "nuc" or nuclear hive through Waldo Ohio Apiaries in Kilbourne, Ohio. Kerri and Dr. Marshall made the trek there to secure the "nuclear" hive, which consists of the queen, workers and brood, or larvae.

"The first hive in the apiary contains four frames with its brood, but we had to introduce a new queen. If we find eggs soon that will be a sign that the integration was a success," Dr. Marshall explains. "Then they need to start producing enough honey – about sixty pounds – to survive next winter."

Dr. Marshall explains that once established the hive will house about 60,000 bees that will collect pollen within a two-mile radius, covering about 8,000 acres – more than 20 times the size of the 388-acre Eden Hall Campus. The immediate beneficiaries will be the Campus’ organic garden and small orchard, but also the many flowering plants throughout that region. And from Kerri’s observations the bees are already hard at work. "It’s great to follow the bee line from the apiary into the environment and then when they return carrying sacks of pollen on their legs."

Drs. Edenborn and Marshall agree that in addition to the service that the bees will provide, they also will be a tremendous resource for research. "Thirty percent of our food comes from crops pollinated by bees, so they are a vital link to the food chain," Dr. Marshall says. "They are also fascinating creatures with distinct social structures."

"There is of course the scientific research regarding pollination, honey production, colony collapse disorder and so on that we’re excited to begin," Dr. Edenborn says. "But the sociobiology of bees presents another research opportunity for our faculty and students, allowing us to study their divisions of labor, pheromones, and sophisticated forms of communication."

The bee trio is also exploring the possibility of adding additional hives to the apiary, further contributing to the Eden Hall Campus ecosystem. Most of all, they especially want the Chatham community and visitors to have a new appreciation for one of earth’s most important insects.

"Although they are so important to life on this planet, bees are often misunderstood and maligned," Dr. Edenborn says. "By establishing this apiary we can re-educate people about how special these insects are and how so much of our own lives are impacted by their role in nature."


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