COLUMBIA — The latest buzz around Sustain Mizzou is the newest project to install two beehives on either Sanborn Field or Eckles Butterfly Garden next month.
Bees are an important part of the food system, as they pollinate over one third of the human food supply, which is about $15 billion in crop production, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The United States has more than 200,000 beekeepers, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Megan Tyminksi, the vice president of projects for Sustain Mizzou, started planning for the beekeeping project over a year ago. Tyminksi’s goal was to help inform students on campus about bee behavior and the importance of bees to food production.
Sustain Mizzou is partnering with Jefferson Farm and Gardens and Mizzou Botanic Garden for mentoring and funding. The mentor’s job is to host a series of classes to educate members of Sustain Mizzou on beekeeping techniques .
Saturday’s class was co-taught by MU graduate student Sarah Cramer and Jefferson Farm and Gardens Manager Leslie Touzeau. Cramer and Touzeau have been beekeeping for five years. Fourteen students attended Saturday’s class and received free tuition thanks to donations made by Mizzou Botanic Garden.
Touzeau, who has a fear of bees, hired Cramer to be the beekeeper at Jefferson Farm and Gardens. Touzeau stressed the importance of wearing a veil to protect your face.
"It is a very sensitive area," Touzeau said. "And while you can chose not to wear gloves or a jacket, a veil is not optional."
Colony Collapse Disorder, first observed in 2006 by David Hackenberg, a beekeeper from Pennsylvania , affected 42 percent of hives in 2015, according to information given during the class. The USDA describes CCD as a "syndrome defined as a dead colony with no adult bees or dead bee bodies but with a live queen and usually honey and immature bees still present."
When diseases such as Nosema Apis or American foulbrood, both of which have been proven deadly to bees, sweep through the hives, the bodies remain. Many beekeepers observe that the strange thing about CCD is that, afterward, no bodies are left behind.
Although scientists do not know the cause of CCD, they do agree that multiple issues including scavenging, urbanization and other stress-inducing factors can cause CCD. This leads to colony decline and disappearance.
There are many theories as to where bees go when CCD occurs. One of the most accepted theories is the idea that bees exhibit a behavior known as "altruistic self-removal." This occurs when a worker bee that knows she is ill leaves the hive permanently to increase the well being of the whole hive.
Beehives are considered a macro organism. Although the health of an individual bee is crucial, it contributes to a larger role — the well-being of the hive. Bees take care of their hives by collecting nectar, cleaning out cells, feeding larva and tending to the queen.
The information taught during the two-hour class gave students the knowledge needed to manage their own hive. After the lecture, students were given their own materials and instructed on how to construct a hive. The design was based off an 1852 model created by Lorenzo Langstroth, the "Father of American Beekeeping."
Tyminksi began this project a year ago and expects to receive starter kits for Sustain Mizzou in April to populate the hives built Saturday.
Supervising editor Hannah Sturtecky.