By TESSIE MAR, Published in UBNow
Release date: October 13, 2021
About 20 students joined David Hoekstra, clinical assistant professor and UB Bees director, for a honey-jarring event on Sept. 30 in the Student Union.
The honey comes from UB’s own backyard, from hives located between Crofts Hall and Bizer Creek on the North Campus.
The UB Bees project strives to educate the UB and WNY communities about honeybees and beekeeping through lectures, workshops and hands-on experience, and the Sept. 30 event was a partnership between the initiative and Student Engagement.
“What I want to emphasize is that events like this stem from ideas that came from the community,” says Hoekstra, a faculty member in the Department of Biological Sciences. “Students saw there was a need to give back. If people have ideas for classes, research or programming, I am all about it.”
With bees producing a surplus of wildflower honey, Hoekstra decided to donate a portion to the UB Blue Table food pantry. Honey in 4-ounce jars will be gifted to the food pantry and Campus Dining and Shops, and 16-ounce jars will be sold to the community to help fund UB Bees.
“Last year we pulled off about 25 gallons of honey from the six hives, and we have never lost a hive in the winter,” Hoekstra says.
This is particularly impressive, as hive thefts and hive mortality are common for beekeepers, Hoekstra notes. He estimates that nationally, about 40% of managed hives die annually, with that number being even higher this past year. A warm summer this year meant that extra management was needed, and Hoekstra had to requeen two hives that were missing a queen. Hoekstra suspects that his gentle approach and use of sustainable practices have encouraged the hives to thrive.
During the pandemic and over the summer, Hoekstra and electrical engineering student Noah Wichlacz were the only ones caring for the hives.
“I am hoping to do more programming and have students be more involved with them this year,” Hoekstra says.
About 20 students showed up to the event in 145A Student Union to help transfer honey into 4-ounce jars. The process ended an hour earlier than anticipated because of the efficiency of the operation.
Students formed an assembly line-type system, with each person repeatedly performing a single task. The whole room was a-BUZZ with the sound of hands working to package the honey.
At one table, students filled glass jars with honey from large plastic dispensers. At a second, a handful of participants wrote notes on UB Bees-branded gift tags to attach to each jar. The notes added a personal touch and helped advertise UB Bees.
On the far left side of the last table, two students measured and cut twine. Moving up the line, three students tied the string and handwritten notes to the jars of honey before passing them to peers at the very end of the table, who attached honey dippers to all of the jars.
“This was exciting to see people from our campus coming together and doing something for our community. It’s a great way to de-stress and have some time for yourself while giving back,” says Preston Arment, graduate student assistant in Student Engagement.
Hoekstra noted that Arment was instrumental in organizing the collaborative event. Student Engagement purchased bottles and stirrers, and printed labels, he says, while UB Bees donated the honey.
Hoekstra has exciting plans for the bees. He intends to hold a similar event to make lip balm from all the beeswax that has been produced.
People can expect to see Hoekstra tabling at the Student Union to promote sustainability and chat about the bees in the coming weeks. He also anticipates hosting hive tours this fall.
Programming for beekeeping workshops is currently being configured, and Hoekstra is also working to create a one-credit course on beekeeping.
Sustainable Development Goals:
2. Zero Hunger
11. Sustainable Cities & Communities