With the arrival of spring come warmer weather, blossoming flowers, and excitement for summer. But for some eager, nature-minded students at MSU, it is also the perfect weather for honey bees. Bailey Bees, a new student group, manages thousands of bees that currently live on the roof of Bailey Hall in the Brody Neighborhood on campus.
Bailey Bees was created in 2015 when students proposed a grant to have two bee hives on Bailey Hall’s green roof. Soon after, The BeeBoard was established to create structure for the organization to hopefully get the organization recognized as an official MSU club next year. Many of the Board’s members are part of RISE, the Residential Initiative on the Study of the Environment. The program, a residential living-learning community, promotes studying and engaging in environmental issues and is housed in Bailey Hall.
“Currently our project is in development; we are learning the best way to manage the bees, harvest honey, allow students to be involved, and make sure the bees are in the healthiest condition possible,” says Alex Marx, an environmental biology and zoology freshman. “Next year we plan to have meetings that will allow any students or non-students on campus to come together, discuss bee keeping questions, learn about bees, and assign roles for assistance of the hives.”
The organization faced a big challenge last year when its colonies were killed by Varroa destructor, a mite. “When the bees get infected with these little monsters, their altruistic behavior kicks into action and the bees leave the hive,” Marx says. “With the bee population being significantly lower due to this, when winter came around, there were not enough bees to generate warmth, resulting the remaining bees freezing to death.”
Fortunately, the organization was able to install two new colonies recently to overcome this loss. Those colonies included more than 14,000 bees and two queen bees.
The organization has many goals they want to achieve with these new colonies. “The purpose of Bailey Bees is to spread awareness of bees through outreach, education, and the perfection of bee keeping in an urban setting, such as a college dorm” Marx explained. “Bees are in a rapid decline and without human intervention, they will cease to exist and die off.”
During the summer when most MSU students leave campus, the bees stay at Bailey. "If students are around they take care of the bees," says Marx, "but we have volunteers from Center of Michigan Beekeepers set up just to make sure that we have constant care and monitoring of the hives; they will be taking care of them over the season until we have enough students to help. These volunteers help throughout the year as well. Beekeeping is a very complicated task and we like to have professional assistance to make sure everything is going well."
Members of the group each have individual interests and goals that are served through beekeeping. “I wanted to join Bailey Bees in order to learn to be a beekeeper,” Marx says. “I have always heard about beekeeping, but never knew much about actually doing it. Now I am learning, and by the time I graduate I hope to be a semi-experienced beekeeper.” When asked about the biggest takeaways from the organization, he says “education, patience, and the love of bees and honey.”
The group is hoping to extend its outreach beyond RISE students. Marx says, “We would love for interested East Lansing citizens, school children, and other MSU students to show interest and send us an email [to] get involved!” If you are interested in getting involved with the group, email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you also want to stay updated, check out their Twitter (@MSUBaileyBees) and Facebook.