Un-bee-lievable: Bees Buzz onto Campus

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Monica McCown
Staff Writer

What’s all the buzz about? A beehive has arrived on campus, located in the community garden by the School of Education building. Craig Petersen, director of operations in Facilities Management for the past 18 months, organized and oversaw the arrival of the beehive. After watching an ad for a man-made beehive called Flow Hive on Facebook, Petersen communicated with his boss, Mike London, Vice President for Facilities Management, and made his first purchase at USF. “[The Flow Hive] took a year to finally arrive,” Petersen said, “and the whole time I couldn’t wait for it to get here.”

Flow Hive is unique in that it harvests the honey in the least invasive way possible. The traditional method of honey harvesting is to blow smoke on the bees to calm them down, get as many bees off of the frame as possible, and scrape the honey off. However, Flow Hive is a revolutionary technology that allows beekeepers to drain the honey without disturbing the bees. It contains man-made combs which the beekeeper can shift to allow honey to flow through a channel and into a tube. “It makes it more accessible and takes away some of the fear factor,” said Joe Murphy, USF’s Environmental Safety Officer.

There are two options as far as populating the hive. A beekeeper may buy a box of about 6,000 bees or buy a “nucleus” which is set up like a mini hive. The nucleus has installed frames in which the bees have already begun to build their hive and, when delivered, the beekeeper must switch the frames out with that of the Flow Hive. Because bees can be sensitive to new areas, they must be kept in the nucleus for a few days in order to acclimate to the environment before moving to their permanent hive. Petersen made the decision to buy a nucleus. “Instead of starting from scratch, you’re already somewhat established and there’s a better success rate,” he said.

The USF Engineers were thrilled when they heard about the hive, especially Catherine Tyler, who volunteered to assemble it. Coincidentally, Murphy was already in the process of assembling his hive. Murphy had researched acquiring a beehive a few years prior and was able to pass that information onto Petersen. “He wanted something that engaged staff, faculty, students, and facilities, and the beehive seemed like a great icebreaker,” said Murphy.

John Callaway, a professor in the Environmental Studies program at USF, has been keeping bees for 3 years. He was instrumental in providing guidance for the new hive. Callaway looks forward to the awareness that the hive will bring about the decline of bee populations. “There are so many concerns about dwindling bee populations because of pesticides,” said Callaway. The truth can sting; the bee population is rapidly decreasing, and many hives have become dependent on beekeepers to survive. The hive will benefit the community garden by fostering growth of the plant life.

Petersen works to engage the entire USF community by including them in the hive’s weekly maintenance. Meetings are always at a different time in order to accommodate the schedules of students, professors, and staff members. Students quickly lose their apprehension toward the bees within the first five minutes and are comfortable enough to help out. One such student, first year Philip Lampkin, said, “it’s nice to see that even in a high-tech big city like San Francisco, our university still finds time to focus on the simple little creatures that bring life to so much of planet earth.”

Petersen plans to offer the honey to USF’s dining service Bon Appetit, a suggestion which Bon Appetit is thrilled about. The beehive will benefit the community garden, the USF community, and the environment.

If you would like to be on the mailing list to receive information about the bees, meeting times, and all other hive related news, email Craig Petersen at cpetersen2@usfca.edu.

Photo courtesy of USF Community Garden

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