AU adds beehives to MGC green roof

Mary Graydon Center is abuzz with several new tenants this semester.

The School of International Service and the Office of Sustainability established four beehives in one of the open-air atriums in MGC at the end of March.

SIS Assistant Dean of Faculty and Administration Joe Clapper and SIS Assistant Professor Eve Bratman spearheaded the project.

The MGC beehives are not the only ones hosted on campus, however. The roof of the SIS building is home to another beehive installed in spring 2011.

Bratman and other SIS faculty wanted to make the SIS building greener, and thought that adding a beehive would help.

“Even though the building is terrifically green, we wanted to do as much as we could up to the roof, so we still hope someday there will be a green roof there.” Bratman said. “But meanwhile, we’re making it as green as we can by making beehives.”

Building beehives on campus increases AU’s sustainability and helps on-campus plant life flourish, as bees help pollinate plants. Adding beehives on campus also helps reverse the national decline in the bee population, Bratman said.

Bratman discovered a passion for beekeeping when she first secured a grant from the Office of Sustainability to set up hives on the roof.

“I’ve had environmental interests since the time I was a little kid, and as part of those interests, done everything from worm composting to community gardening.” Bratman said. “So beekeeping was always something that’s been on my radar.”

Bratman’s growing interest in the subject led to the establishment of a new not-for-credit course for the AU community in beekeeping.

The course started off as an experimental peer-driven class allowing students to teach each other about unique subjects, according to Eli McComb, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences.

There are currently 15 people enrolled in the course, Bratman said.

McComb, alongside Bratman, is hoping to establish an AU Beekeeping Club to allow more students to become involved. Bratman hopes the club will help attract more students to beekeeping.

“I could continue to be the sole beekeeper on campus, but it wouldn’t be half as much fun if there weren’t other people learning by my side,” Bratman said.

Bratman set up a hive behind Kreeger in July 2011. But it failed when all the bees died due to beetle infestations and oversaturation from the heavy rains of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in August and September 2011.

It was easier to secure a grant for the MGC hives, since the university already had the equipment from the Kreeger hives and the start-up costs were already covered, Bratman said.

As a result, she was able to establish three hives in MGC.

“All of the hives, since they’re all on roofs, we don’t have any of the pest problems that we had while the hives were basically down on the ground, so signs are all very positive that these bees are doing great,” Bratman said.

Bratman and McComb hope to further expand beekeeping at AU and educate the AU community on the importance of bees.

“The bees are not killer bees,” Bratman said. “They are quite docile, and they’re also quite essential to keeping our ecosystem healthy because they’re pollinators.”

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