Bee-friendly campus project aims to be friendly to bees

Those who have seen “Bee Movie,” the 2007 cartoon film featuring the voice of Jerry Seinfeld, may be aware of the critically important (but hidden) role bees play in our lives and the serious danger they currently face.

“Most people don’t know that they’re endangered and that they are such a critical thing for our ecosystem,” says Taylor Heid, President of the newly-founded Zoology Club. “They don’t know how important they are and why this movement even needs to happen. That’s the first barrier I need to cross, through student outreach and education.”

She, along with librarian Kellian Clink, are leading the charge in getting MNSU to do its part to combat the plight of the bees.

While it may not be easy to see, bees have a substantial impact on everyone’s day-to-day life. Aside from beautifying gardens, pollination is also key to food production. “Bees are responsible for every three bites that we take in our food,” explains Heid. She also notes that they have a major economic impact.

But bees are not thriving. Their numbers are being decimated due to the effects of pesticides, parasites, habitat loss, and climate change. A recent sign of this danger is found in the case of the rusty patch bumblebee, a species native to Minnesota which Heid notes was recently listed as endangered.

Like many other environmental issues, the tragedy of the bees is a human issue, as well. When bees suffer, humans suffer.

“If bees die out, who knows what’s going to happen to the ecosystem?” says Heid. “They’re a keystone species.”

Heid and Clink are ambitious and optimistic in their vision. They aim to make MNSU a haven for bees. The plan for a “bee-friendly campus” is twofold: to promote practices that will attract bees and to educate campus about the importance of the issue.

Heid lists a number of ways to bring more bees to campus: limiting pesticides, introducing hives, creating gardens, and using bee-friendly landscaping. The idea is not isolated to MNSU – it has already been gaining momentum across the nation. Bee City USA (www.beecityusa.org) is an organization dedicated to establishing “bee cities” and “bee campuses” across the country to protect bee populations.

Clink presented the idea to MSSA last semester, asking for support into investigation of the idea. Senators responded with concerns about bee stings. Heid notes that only 1,000 of the 20,000 bee species sting and that landscaping can be done with plants that only attract the non-stinging species.

“My role in this movement of being a bee friendly campus is simply that of an enabler,” says MSSA president Faiçal Rayani. “My goal is to do what I do best for our students. It would be fantastic to increase the population of bees in our area and show support for the existence of bees as an institution without causing harm to our campus patrons.”

Clink, who has made efforts to make her own yard bee-friendly, says, “I just think it’s important for us to do our part. I mean, it doesn’t have to be a big part, but I think I would like to see us at least make a symbolic step.”

She adds that one of the most significant impacts bee-friendly measures have is their potential to create awareness.

“[We’d] send out 15,000 people who are more aware of what the situation is,” said Clink.

Heid and Clink hope that the movement doesn’t stop with the bees, but goes on to spark other environmental movements on campus.

Creating a bee-friendly campus is a top priority of Heid’s newly-formed Zoology Club. The club meets every other Monday at 7 p.m. in Trafton Center 314. Its next meeting will be this upcoming Monday, Feb. 6. Zoology Club focuses on topics related to animals in some way. The goal of the club, Heid says, is to “educate ourselves, educate others, and volunteer in the community.”

Last semester, the club hosted a showing of the film “Before the Flood” to raise awareness of climate change and this semester the club plans to promote the Save the Boundary Waters campaign.

To keep up with the bee-friendly movement, follow MNSU Bee Friendly Campus on Facebook.

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