Bees are well known for giving people a jolt of pain with their stingers, but the bees that now take up residence in the hive on the Schaible roof have much more than just a sting to offer.
Campus officials cited educational purposes as the primary factor behind the beehive’s installation, as our Science department is studying ecological and sustainability issues.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, The bee population is struggling in the United States from a rapid decline due to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). The CCD is characterized by a majority of bees abandon a hive, leaving behind the queen.
As the issue of CCD begins a slow decline, finding the cause for such an environmental problem is where EC and the use of hives for academic use comes in.
“Bees are a very important part of our ecosystem and our food chain,” Mather expressed in My Suburban Life. The hives will allow classes to study their behavior and their positive attributes to our environment.
The journey to visit the bees involves a humid trek through the trachea of Schaible. At the end of the humid staircase is a blistering metal room, where the bee kits and suits are placed in a dark corner.
Forty-thousand bees were shipped to the Elmhurst post office in shoebox-sized bee kits, enough to terrify the postal workers. Paul Hack, grounds and maintenance supervisor on campus, retrieved the bees from the post office.
“I walked in, said I was here for the bees, and they didn’t ask for identification or anything,” he said. “They don’t get live animals sent through mail often, they had me go to the back, said they were on the desk and didn’t want to pick them up.”
The two hives the bees now call home are much roomier than shoeboxes, skyscraping condos in comparison. Each hive is comprised of three layers, stacked on top of cinder blocks to allow space in case of flooding like the stilt houses of the swampy south.
While quiet from the outside, the bees stay busy in the heart of the hive. Most of them work hard in the bottom layer protecting the queen, as others work in the top two layers on honey production. At the end of the season, the top two tiers fill with honey, pushing the colony to the bottom layer for warmth and protection from the elements.
Wade Golz, maintenance mechanic for EC, explained how the bees would also contribute back to donors.
“The honey harvested plans to be gifted to those who donate to the college, providing a sweet thank you for their donation,” he said.
While the story of the bees began in April of this year after the school won the grant, the adventure is an ongoing process. Some EC students took to Facebook to share their views about the bee grant, some irritated with the situation, others coming to defend the insects.
EC senior Alex Lundrigan expressed his feelings on the new students as “I am in full support. Bees are like dogs with wings.”