Honeybees “bee-long” on campus, in Sustainability Meadow: Indiana University Kokomo

Honeybees “bee-long” on campus, in Sustainability Meadow: Indiana University Kokomo

KOKOMO, Ind. — The average bee may seem insignificantly small.

But as one of the most efficient pollinators of plant species in the world, they make a big difference.

The Indiana University Kokomo Office of Sustainability, together with the Student Sustainability Council, is doing its part, welcoming bees to make themselves at home on campus, establishing four hives in the secluded meadow east of the parking garage.

“It’s all part of having a sustainable campus,” said Tera Gotschall, a sustainability intern. “Bees are pollinators of all the plants we have in our ecological restoration area. We plan to add a garden, and they can help us with pollinating that as well. The idea of having honey produced on campus is really awesome, too.”

Gotschall and fellow intern Alissa Russell installed the hives in the area they’re calling Sustainability Meadow and painted them red and white in a nod to IU’s colors. Russell said the location is perfect, away from the campus’s main traffic, and close to an existing ecological restoration area where chemical pesticides are not used.

The campus already earned Tree Campus USA distinction, and volunteers hope to add a Bee Campus USA designation, by providing a healthy habitat for pollinators, rich in a variety of native plants, with nesting sites and no use of pesticides.

Andy Tuholski, assistant professor of political science and director of the Office of Sustainability, said the plan builds off a native trees and plants project IU Kokomo’s Women of the Well House giving circle previously sponsored. Funding for the pollinator project came from the IU Kokomo Student Government Association.

“We want to ensure that pollinators, which are crucial to the health of our environment, can thrive on our campus, and enhance its beauty for years to come,” he said.

Bees add to the natural beauty of the landscape, while also contributing an estimated $15 billion to the U.S. economy every year by pollinating crops and wild and native plants. Nearly 90 percent of plant species rely on pollinators like bees to reproduce — and with 40 percent of pollinator species potentially at risk of extinction worldwide, their loss would also have great impact.

The Office is partnering with the Shue Bee Farm, Russiaville, to establish and maintain the campus bees. As part of the agreement, half of the honey harvested will be donated to the Cougar Cupboard food pantry, which benefits the campus community.

Tuholski said bee experts from the farm plan to speak during Sustainability Week April 10 to 14, 2023, and have offered to arrange beekeeping training for anyone interested.

The previously underused site is perfect as a pollinator area, he added, because of its proximity to plants and the creek — and its distance from campus buildings.

“Beehives thrive when they have sunlight and nearby water, and humans prefer it when they are away from main thoroughfares,” he said. “This location is an ideal fit for this project.”

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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