By Sarah Kaufman
A quiet hum emanates from the two four-foot-high boxes tucked behind the greenhouse on the campus of Central Connecticut State University. Located between Nicholas Copernicus Hall and the Nicholas Copernicus parking garage, the honeybee hives, or apiary, are nurtured under the watchful eyes of Dr. Alicia Bray of the Biology Department and David Serino, Central’s Environmental Health & Safety director.
Dr. Bray said she has maintained the apiary in some form for the past five years. However, the current two hives on campus are relatively new.
Serino, a Cornell University certified Master Beekeeper, has 15 hives on his property in Litchfield and has been beekeeping for about 10 years. This spring, he donated two of his hives to Central.
“All domestic honey production in the United States is the result of intensely managed, non-native European honeybees [Apis mellifera],” says Serino, “About 50 percent of those domestic honeybee hives were lost over this past winter nationwide. However, colonies overseen by humans have a better chance of recovery the following year with proper management. In comparison, the nearly 4,000 native bee species in U.S. are threatened by introduced diseases, parasites, loss of habitat, and pesticides.”
Because the bees have a better chance of survival when overseen by a beekeeper, Serino said it doesn’t take long for the hives to expand. Even after donating two hives to Central, he said, his personal apiary still grew from 10 this spring to 15 hives now.
While she has eventual, long-term plans for the honey that could be created by the Central apiary, Dr. Bray said her focus this year is for the bees to produce enough honey to survive the winter.
“Certainly, I have grand plans for the honey,” Dr. Bray said, “but this is really their first year, so harvesting and marketing any Blue Devil honey will have to wait.”
Dr. Bray said the best part of the Central apiary is getting her Biology students involved in studying and caring for the bees.
“I can figure out a way to include the bees in just about any program of study,” she said. “I can incorporate it into classes in entomology or animal behavior. I like finding a way to use them in classes for my non-biology major students.”
In the fall, Dr. Bray said she hopes to get the Central Sustainability Club involved with the apiary. She also would like to find a way to get a military veterans group program to interact with the apiary in a fashion that would be therapeutic.
“I just think there are so many ways the university and community can benefit from the bees,” she said.
Kelly Selby, the Environmental Health & Safety Office coordinator, said the bee apiary is one of Central’s many sustainability programs that works toward shrinking the university’s carbon footprint. Other green initiatives include the university’s fuel cell (with plans to add another one to campus); 18 free electric vehicle charging stations throughout campus; the replacement of all university lighting with LED fixtures; and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards on all new construction, among others. The Environmental Health & Safety Office, along with the Central Sustainability Club, also conduct a Devil’s Move Out Donation Drive program through which unwanted furniture, clothing, and other items are donated to local shelters to divert them from landfills.
Selby said Chief Operations Officer Sal Cintorino approved the apiary because it fulfills several campus needs.
“We sat down and looked at the concept of embracing this learning experience and promoting this sustainable endeavor,” Cintorino said. “Everything that we discussed supported developing this bee apiary concept without creating a safety concern for the campus community.”