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What’s the buzz at PSU? Beehives are coming to campus this spring

PSU bees logoGet ready—PSU’s new campus apiary is buzzing with excitement! For those who don’t know, an “apiary” is a collection of beehives. Over the past year, I’ve been working in collaboration with other PSU students as well as faculty, staff, and local honeybee experts to bring an apiary to PSU’s Community Orchard. This project is striving to make PSU a more pollinator friendly environment while promoting hands-on educational opportunities for the campus community. 

When most people think of pollinating bees, honeybees are the ones that immediately come to mind. What many people don’t know is that there are numerous other pollinating bee species, including the northwest native mason bee (also called an orchard bee). Honeybees and mason bees live and pollinate independently from each other—mason bees in the early spring and honeybees late spring through early fall. While honeybees live and work with thousands of other bees in a hive, mason bees are solitary and every female makes her own nest in small natural cavities or human constructed homes that she fills with both mud and pollen to protect and feed her developing bee larvae. Male mason bees do not have stingers, and a female mason bee sting will feel only slightly worse than a mosquito bite, and she will only sting if in immediate danger (like being squished). This makes them a very gentle and easy bee to handle, even for young children! Mason bees do not produce honey, but they are very efficient at pollinating fruit trees and native plants species. 

This week, 30 mason bee cocoons arrived to PSU, and within the next two weeks we'll be moving them over to PSU’s Community Orchard. In mid-April, the long anticipated arrival of two honeybee hives will join the mason bees at the Community Orchard. We’re fortunate to have the support of master beekeeper Tim Wessels of Bridgetown Bees as the resident expert and mentor for this project. Tim will lead educational sessions in the classroom and in the field when the hives are up and running. On January 17, the bee initiative hosted its first event: a Beekeeping 101 workshop facilitated by Tim, which garnered a group of more than 40 enthusiastic PSU students (check out photos from the event here). 

Why bring bees to campus?

bee pollinating flowerHoneybees and other insects, bats, and birds are essential for the pollination of many plants, including about one-third of the food crops we grow. Recent studies have shown that bees are being negatively affected from the use of pesticides on plants. Bringing bees to campus promotes awareness of the value of all life, big and small, and how the things we do may affect others. Bees will be a valuable addition to PSU’s campus, providing both educational opportunities and ecological benefits. By highlighting the value of pollinators and hosting opportunities for the campus community to personally engage with the new bees, we hope that the community will welcome the new pollinators to campus. Everyone is welcome and invited to come and marvel at these beautiful, tiny, highly organized insects once the bees arrive.

Get Involved

The apiary will be located in the PSU Community Orchard at SW 12th and Montgomery, which is connected to the Community Garden and across the street from Epler Hall. The orchard is jointly run by the Student Sustainability Center’s Garden Task Force and the PSU Environmental Club. Several fruit trees and various other species of flowering plants will make this location a great home to both the honeybees and returning mason bees starting this spring. 

We'll be hosting more bee-related events in the coming months, such as a movie screening and a welcome celebration party after the bees arrive. If you are interested in getting involved, or want to learn more, please contact Stefanie at bees@pdx.edu. You can also sign up to receive monthly PSU sustainability email announcements about these and other sustainability-related opportunities. Or take a walk by PSU’s Community Orchard to check out the new home of the campus apiary. Stay tuned for more exciting events in the coming weeks!

This initiative is a collaborative effort supported by PSU’s Student Sustainability Center, the Campus Sustainability Office, the Institute for Sustainable Solutions, and local honeybee expert Tim Wessels through the Living Lab program here on campus. 

Here's a map showing the location of PSU’s apiary in the Community Orchard:

PSU campus map showing apiary location

Stefanie Steele is a junior biology major, intern with the Student Sustainability Center, and a honey bee enthusiast. 

PSU bees logo designed by PSU graphic design student Sandie Lang.