RIC’s beehives on campus: The history behind them and what role they play

Raymond Baccari

News Editor

Image via Caroline Niehoff / Raymond Baccari

PROVIDENCE, R.I., — Recently, Rhode Island College (RIC) added a new beehive to the campus with this one being located on top of the Donovan Dining Center (DDC). Beekeeping started on the RIC campus in 2011 when two anthropology professors, husband and wife Dr. Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban and Dr. Richard Lobban, presented an idea to the president of the college at the time, Dr. Nancy Carriuolo. Carriuolo supported the idea and the campus started off with two beehives, with it increasing to three a couple of years later.


From 2012 onward RIC’s sustainability coordinator, Jim Murphy, has taken over the management of the hives after Fluehr-Lobban and Lobban retired. Most of the hives on campus are located in the apiary at the college’s Bee Education Center, as well as a new hive set up on top of the Donovan Dining Center recently. These hives being on campus has made RIC one of the go-to locations for Bee Education in the local area.


Murphy told The Anchor more about RIC’s Bee Education Center, located on the eastern side of campus behind buildings seven and eight, saying, “We set up an outdoor classroom called the Bee Education Center and it has storage, signage, seating and we bring in about two to 300 kids a year for field trips. Those field trips then pay for all our equipment that we need during the year.”


Murphy continued, “And over the years I have gotten grants for equipment [needed] for extracting honey and we have beesuits so if somebody wanted to come in and open up the hive, we can offer them the protection they need. There’s two hives up there now, it has a WPRI 12 weather station. That’s where they get their Providence weather data — from the Bee Education Center."


Aside from the educational opportunity the hives bring, they also play a crucial role in the local ecosystem.


“[The bees] pollinate. Pollination is essential [for] plant life. We need our crops to be pollinated, and they pollinate one third of everything [people] eat. When you look at your plate of food, you can count on a honey bee for a third of that portion.”


Murphy further added, “In addition, they pollinate feed that we use for livestock, like alfalfa. So they are very important to the food chain. We have a campus garden-, and the bees are constantly in the campus garden pollinating different things that are blooming at different times.”


The role the bees from RIC’s hives also play in the local system is part of the reasoning for why a new hive was added on to the top of the DDC.


“We put one up on the roof of Donovan as part of pollinating the plants on the west side of the campus. Arthur Patrie envisioned the new cafe, which is called the Beestro, and Queen Donovan is the queen bee of that hive [on top of Donovan]. Some of the honey that we will extract from that hive will be used in recipes and things that will be served in The Beestro.”


Murphy continued, “Bees travel in a three-mile radius of their hive. And we figured putting one down here on this side of the campus would increase the pollination that we need for not only the garden, but for our trees, our bushes, whatever’s blooming [in the area]. It gives us another opportunity to have a much fuller-looking campus when it comes to trees and things like that."


Murphy added that next year, one of the goals is to put two more hives at the campus garden, making it five total on campus.


The bees in the hives on campus are all honey bees. During the warmer weather earlier in the semester, those on campus may have seen a lot of bees fly around and toward them. Those bees that would fly close to people on campus are called yellow jackets and aren’t in any of the hives.


Murphy explained the key differences between the two types of bees, saying, “Honey bees are not out to sting or bother you. Their sole goal in their six-week life is to pollinate flowers [and] bring back nectar and pollen to the beehives. [Yellow jackets] are much more willing to attack [someone]. They don’t pollinate and pull out nectar like a honey bee does. They’re a lot more aggressive.”


The extinction of bees is a possible and frightening fact for many within the scientific community. Murphy says planting trees and flowers, not using pesticides and giving bees respect by doing things like not killing a honey bee thinking it’s a yellow jacket are things people can do to help prevent bee extinction from happening.


To learn more about the role bees play on campus, the hives RIC has and the work going on at the Bee Education Center, visit https://www.ric.edu/meet-rhode-island-college/campus-sustainability/bee-education.








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