A group of students and educators at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) have come together to tackle the problem of diminishing pollinator populations. UTD collaborates with Bee Campus USA, a nationwide program that encourages college campuses to create native plant spaces and nesting houses for bees.
Eve Gersh, a UTD student and Bee Campus Representative, said the importance of honeybees cannot be overstated.
“Where agriculture is concerned, 80% of commercial pollination is conducted by honeybees and the other 20% by other bees and insects such as bumblebees or mason bees,” Gersh noted.
Gersh pointed out that honeybees must collect nectar to feed an entire colony, while other insects like wasps only feed themselves. If bees have trouble getting enough nectar due to environmental factors, the health of the whole colony is at risk.
Since 2006, U.S. beekeepers have lost an average of 30% of their colonies every year due to increased use of chemical pesticides, climate change, and habitat loss. However, at UTD, an abundance of pollinator gardens and wildflower patches sustain the campus’ several bee colonies.
Students on campus are given the opportunity to work closely with the bees.
“UTD students are invited to slip into bee suits and participate in honey collections and hive inspections in our apiaries. During these events, students get hands-on experience in the practice of beekeeping. They also learn about the vital role pollinators play in our ecosystems,” Gersh told The Dallas Express.
Every year, UTD sells $5 bottles of honey — named “Comet Honey” — which is harvested by students at the campus.
Gersh said the bee program means a great deal to her.
“Speaking as a student myself, I know that the experiences I have had with our bees will remain with me throughout my life. My eyes have been opened to the magic and work of pollination that goes on all around us,” she said.“I will continue to share the love of bees I found here at UTD even after I have graduated.”