Hobbyist Beekeeping Good for Environment

Private apiaries, or beekeeping yards, can help to curb a rapid decline in the U.S. honeybee population that threatens 30 percent of the country’s food crops.

Rhode Island College’s beekeeping classes, offered onsite at RIC’s own apiary by the Rhode Island Beekeepers Association, will give beginners a complete education in setting up, keeping and harvesting beehives during sessions held Feb. 7 – March 8.

“Honey bee pollination is vital to so much of what we eat and to many consumer products,” said Jim Murphy, RIC sustainability coordinator. “The more we see bee colonies decline, the more we will see our food prices increase.”

According to The Environmental Protection Agency, the Colony Collapse Disorder, caused by a combination of parasites, pesticides and poor colony nutrition, has beekeepers losing between 30 to 90 percent of their colonies each year.

Beekeeping classes will be held over five weeks in two sessions (Feb. 7, 14, 21, 28 and March 7, and Feb. 8, 15, 22, March 1 and 8.) The cost of the course is $65 per person, which includes all course materials, textbook and membership to the RI Beekeepers Association. Additional family members residing at the same address may attend for $10 per person.

Topics covered will include choosing an apiary site, purchasing bees and equipment and the many benefits to private beekeeping.

Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban, professor emeritus of anthropology, became a beekeeping hobbyist eight years ago to pursue her environmental interests. It’s been, she said, a sweet pursuit – literally – since she harvests an average of 160 lbs. of honey per season.

“I keep hives for the pleasure and for the science,” Fluehr-Lobban said. “The first and best thing to do for anyone interested in beekeeping is to take RIC’s beekeeping class.”

Advanced registration is required by contacting the Rhode Island Beekeepers Association at 401-568-8449.

RIC’s apiary, installed on campus in 2011, provides a beekeeping training and biodiversity education site for adults and children. It also has added aesthetic value to campus; honeybees in a single hive can pollinate a three-to-four mile radius of flowers and crops, increasing blooms and harvests.

Fluehr-Lobban said raspberry and apple crops have increased on her property. There have been, she said, fuller and redder winterberry trees in her neighbor’s yard. Her husband, Peter Lobban, professor emeritus of anthropology, uses hive beeswax to make candles.

“The more you get into beekeeping, the more interesting it becomes,” Fluehr-Lobban said. “It’s a hobby centered in art, science and the environment.”

The beekeeping classes are being offered as part of RIC’s Urban and Community Farming Initiative, which includes a campus garden and farmers market. For more information on these programs and RIC’s green and sustainability efforts, contact Jim Murphy at 401-456-8799.