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Haverford Beekeeping Club Sets the Campus Abuzz

When students return to campus next fall, they may notice some new members of the Haverford community: two hives’ worth of honey bees. The bees are scheduled to arrive on campus this week from a farm in Lancaster, thanks to the Haverford Beekeeping Club.

The club was formed this semester after Dana Duncombe ‘17 learned that Alanna Matteson ‘15 had started researching how to bring bees to campus. Matteson wanted to incorporate bees into the Haverfarm, a student farming initiative started in 2013. Duncombe and Matteson joined forces to figure out how to get funding for the bees, and decided that forming a club was the best way to proceed.

“I collaborated with [Matteson], and we were able to in the fall go through with the whole grant process and get the bees,” explained Duncombe. “The second part of getting the bees was creating this educational component, and that’s the Beekeeping Club.”

The club’s purpose is to educate the community about honey bees and beekeeping, while fostering a healthy bee community at Haverford. This mission helped the club secure a grant from the Greening Haverford Fund, a partnership between the Committee for Environmental Responsibility (CER) and the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship (CPGC). The $500 grant allowed the Beekeeping Club to pay for the bee nuclei and the beekeeping suits.

In order to create a compelling proposal, Matteson met with Don Campbell, Director of Physical Plant, and Mark Sweeney, Safety Coordinator.

“They helped me to put together a proposal that then went to Senior Staff, just trying to describe exactly what the purpose was in having bees, not just to pollinate the farm,” said Matteson. “No way, they said, that’s not going to fly. But if you make it into an educational opportunity, that might justify it.”

To create the educational component, the club enlisted the help of Eli St. Amour, a freshman at Saint Joseph’s University and a registered beekeeper with the state of Pennsylvania. Matteson met St. Amour this summer at Harriton House, a heritage site in Bryn Mawr. In February, St. Amour and Haverford College signed an agreement that St. Amour would be the primary beekeeper for Haverford’s bee population.

“He owns the hives; we give him a place to have the hives, in exchange that he will teach Haverford students about bees and outreach,” explained Claudia Kent, Haverford’s Sustainability Coordinate. “We fund him in exchange for education of Haverford students.”

The agreement lasts for three years, and St. Amour must provide the College with 60 days notice should he no longer be able to care for the bees, or want to remove the hives from Haverford. To engage with the community, members of the Beekeeping Club will be able to observe when St. Amour opens the hive to check on the bees and extract honey.

Having St. Amour involved in the process, Matteson described, was crucial in getting approval to bring the bees to campus.

“Basically the way that we got the administration to approve it is that Eli is going to be our full-time beekeeper, and we’ll just be involved at each step of the beekeeping process,” said Matteson. “There’s obviously a problem with institutional memory, and a space during the summer when no one’s going to be around.”

After the three year agreement has finished, it is unclear what the future of the Haverford bee population will be, said Kent. But in these initial stages, the Haverford Beekeeping Club is focused on gearing up for the fall semester.

“This semester was very much just trying to get it going,” said Duncombe. “In the fall, there’s a few current freshmen who are going to be really spearheading it and having more events like movie screenings and open hive days.”

The hives will be mounted in the retention basin at the Haverfarm, located behind Facilities and adjacent to the Nature Trail. The bees will be arriving soon, so walk down and take a peek if you’re brave enough!

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