Sunday, May 8, 2011

Bee Keeping at the USF Botanical Garden as a Model of Suburban Sustainability



In recent years, we have all heard the bad news about colony collapse disorder.  The disorder is known to occur throughout the United States and is evidenced by the disappearance or gradual decline of bee numbers in a hive.  There are many thoughts as to why this is occurring.  It seems that some sort of environmental stress or pest invasion may be the main causes.  Regardless, there is one organization doing its part to reverse the decline.

It all started with a phone call.

A local Tampa Bay beekeeper, Gary van Cleef, received a call that a swarm of bees was taking place on a tree outside of the USF Library in March of 2009.  Swarms occur when a group of bees split off from the main hive to create a new hive.  Instead of destroying the hive, Gary contacted the USF Botanical Gardens to see if they would be willing to take on the hive.  The Director, Laurie Walker, was glad to start a new hive on the grounds.  Since then, it’s been a terrific partnership.

Gary set up the hive on the main grounds of the gardens.  Originally, the idea was to teach people about the significance of bees and to offer small workshops on beekeeping.  What started out small is now making a big impact in the Tampa Bay Region.

A beekeeping class at the USF Botanical Gardens.  The gardens
are located on the suburban edge of Tampa.
Since 2009, over 75 people have been trained in beekeeping and have started their own suburban and urban hives.  Last weekend, so many people were trained that Florida's Division of Plant Industry sent an inspector to inspect and register the hives.  According to Walker, the inspector said that he had never certified so many hives all in one day!

Each one of these hives produces gallons of honey each year.  Indeed, in the short time that the USF hive has been in operation, it has produced over 7 gallons of honey, most of which was sold in their plant shop.  Most of those trained in beekeeping at USF also sell their honey, some of which is available to purchase at the gardens.

Kim Hutton (left), USF Director of Volunteers and
Laurie Walker (right) Director of the Botanical Gardens.  
Within each hive there are often over 10,000 bees involved in making and storing the honey.  Imagine the impact that these bees have in our community and on our campus. 

Beekeeping is a great example of how the suburbs can reframe sustainability to make low density land an asset in sustainability.  They provide small business opportunities, add to the nutritional content of households, and help the environment.

To learn more about beekeeping at the Botanical Gardens, you can read about the courses on Gary van Cleef’s website here.  Gary’s website has lots of photos from previous bee workshops at USF.  You can also learn more about beekeeping in the Tampa Bay area here and the USF Botanical Gardens here.

There are many opportunities to make suburbs more sustainable.  What are your ideas?

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