Beekeeping club hopes to engage Lehigh in conservation efforts

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For many, bees are buzzing insects associated with fear and annoyance. However, the newly emerging Lehigh University Beekeeping Club disagrees with this stigma.

The club, which will have its first meeting on Nov. 5,  plans to focus on raising awareness about honeybees and their current difficult situation, as well as promoting environmental sustainability.

Lehigh’s aviary, which is located on Mountaintop campus, features a newly installed collection of manmade beehives that the Beekeeping Club plans to use to fulfill these goals.

Katherine Ballen, ’16, who is behind this new club, said her interest came from her beekeeping experience in high school, as well as the plight of bees. She approached the College of Education’s marketing director, Tamara Bartolet, in February to start the club.

Ballen and Bartolet received a grant from the Lehigh GreenFund earlier this year to assist them with purchases associated with starting the club.

In the grant application to the GreenFund, Ballen wrote, “This initiative is not only a beacon for sustainability at Lehigh, but is essential to the global environment and economy.”

Stacey Kimmel-Smith, chair of the GreenFund, said the club’s proposal was a strong one that fit the criteria that the GreenFund review group has established.

“A strong case was made for establishing a beehive, from the standpoint of raising environmental awareness on campus, for student and staff support and for long-term benefits,” Kimmel-Smith said. “The review group feels it is an exciting project that brings students, faculty and staff together to plan and maintain the beehive.”

The club is funded by the Lehigh University Environmental Advisory Group along with the College of Education. It is also under the mentorship of the Lehigh Valley Beekeeping Association.

“The Lehigh Valley Beekeeping Association is a critical partner in having this program succeed,” Bartolet said. “They come with in-depth knowledge of what it takes to keep healthy hives.”

Aside from utilizing Lehigh’s aviary, the club also intends to host workshops about the importance of honeybees and show students new ways that they can help sustain the community.

Prior to being officially approved, the club already had over 50 members and faculty in support of its goals.

Elizabeth Hutnikoff, ’15, first heard of the club through Lehigh’s website early on in the summer.

“I’ve never been involved with beekeeping before, but it has always been something I’ve found to be very intriguing,” Hutnikoff said. “The club will probably be a great fit for anyone who has interests in environmental studies and conservation.”

Many students have seen the start of the club as an opportunity to become more involved with a conservation effort. In order to teach students how to preserve the balance of nature, the club will obtain, maintain and observe at least one hive on campus. Ballen said in the future, once the bees reproduce and build their hives, students will have the ability to harvest honey and learn how these insects live.

“We have had positive feedback from all of the Lehigh community and especially our students,” Bartolet said. “Taking this action speaks volumes about Lehigh’s commitment to sustainability.”

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