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Buzzing out of existence: BFEC program talks bees

Buzzing out of existence: BFEC program talks bees

By Manjul Bhusal Sharma

“The estimates for the value of pollination services are in billions of dollars per year,” said Professor Emeritus of Environmental Science and Biology Ray Heithaus.

One could say, then, that the chief pollination services provider, the honeybee, is a billionaire on the brink of extinction.

Brown Family Environmental Center (BFEC) Program Manager Heather Doherty said, “[The decline of the honeybee] has been a mystery, and I think they might be killing them with pesticides.”

Doherty decided to address the matter by hosting a family adventure day, titled “The Bees’ Knees,” this past Saturday, Sept. 7 at the BFEC. Heithaus lead the event and spoke on the importance of bees and their amazing qualities.

“The existence of bees is vital because 80 percent of flowering plants are pollinated by bees,” Heithaus said.

For instance, after a Whole Foods Market in University Heights, R.I. removed all produce dependent on pollinators like honeybees, shoppers were shocked to find that only 48 percent of the produce was left, according to Whole Foods’ website. But what would Peirce look like without bees? There would be no kale, the go-to vegetable for Peirce’s vegetarian section. There would be no apples, broccoli, zucchini, onions, avocados, carrots, bok choy and so much more. There would not be any summer squash to transform a regular Peirce lasagna dish into a gustatory delight.

Elaborating on the fact that Peirce and humanity relies so heavily on bees, Heithaus educated BFEC guests on bees in general.

At the event, Heithaus told the participants about different species of bees and their habitats and of their importance. “I was fascinated by pollinators in the first year of my graduate studies. My doctoral thesis included a lot about bees,” Heithaus said. “I did my doctoral research in Central America in Costa Rica on pollination systems and that’s where I got interested in bees in the first place.”

Though Gambier does not have nearly as many different plant species as Costa Rica, the state of Ohio alone has over 500 species of bee in its flat plains.

“Actually, Ohio’s not at the top of the list by a long margin. Lots of species of flowering plants are important for bee diversity, and having different kinds of nesting resources available because some bees nest in hollow spaces ラ like honeybees in big trees,” Heithaus said.

At the event, Heithaus also explained a common misconception: people often confuse other insects for bees. The most common bee mimics are flies and wasps. One easy way of differentiating between them is to count their wings. A fly only has two wings while a bee has four. Another fallacy that Heithaus knocked down during the talk was that not all bees make honey. Only the honeybees make honey.

“The Bees’ Knees” was not purely informational, it was also interactive.

“The visitors made a mason bee house using the hollow stem of the cup plant which is grown in the BFEC,” Doherty said. “They got to take them to their houses and raise mason bees. ナ Since the bee population is decreasing mysteriously these days, the BFEC is interested in protecting them.”

“With mason bees, more people are starting to raise them both commercially and at home because they work well with honeybees, or might be a positive alternative to honeybees, and the honeybee population continues to decline, and that is a real problem,” Doherty said.

Bees, however, is just a sample of the range of topics on which the BFEC educates.

The BFEC will continue to encourage an appreciation for nature with programming every first Saturday of the month, each one highlighting a different theme. They will have scavenger hunts and various arts and crafts activities aimed at kids. Kenyon students and community members are welcome to join the events. “There have been as many as 90 people in some events,” Doherty said. We have a community emailing system through which we let people know about the events.”

Though the BFEC provides many events to involve families and students in environmental issues, sparking peoples’ interest in the first place is difficult.

“It’s hard to care about protecting something you don’t know about. The first step is increasing appreciation for nature ナ if we disrupt our environment too much we are disrupting our economic system and our overall well-being,” Heithaus said.

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