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Conservation projects earn Bee Campus USA designation

Aug 5, 2022
Two women pose for a picture while painting bee hives.
Two women pose for a picture while painting bee hives.

KOKOMO, Ind. — The average bee may seem insignificantly small.

But as one of the most efficient pollinators of plant species in the world, they make a big difference.

Because of efforts to provide a healthy habitat for bees and other pollinators, Indiana University Kokomo earned Bee Campus USA certification from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. 

Mark Canada, deputy chancellor and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, commended those involved from the Office of Sustainability, the Student Sustainability Council, and Physical Facilities.

“The Bee Campus USA designation is one of many signs of IU Kokomo’s commitment to the environment,” he said. “Thanks in part to outstanding leadership from our Office of Sustainability and the excellent work of our Facilities team, IU Kokomo is becoming a leader in natural preservation. I’m especially pleased that our students are actively involved in this work.”

As part of the project, students recently built and installed four beehives in the secluded area east of the parking garage.

“It’s all part of having a sustainable campus,” said Tera Gotschall, a sustainability intern. “Bees are pollinators of all the plants we have in our ecological restoration area. We plan to add a garden, and they can help us with pollinating that as well. The idea of having honey produced on campus is really awesome, too.”

Andy Tuholski, assistant professor of political science and director of the Office of Sustainability, said the plan builds off a native trees and plants project IU Kokomo’s Women of the Well House giving circle previously sponsored. Funding for the pollinator project came from the IU Kokomo Student Government Association.

“We want to ensure that pollinators, which are crucial to the health of our environment, can thrive on our campus, and enhance its beauty for years to come,” he said.

Gotschall and fellow intern Alissa Russell installed the hives in the area they’re calling Sustainability Meadow and painted them red and white in a nod to IU’s colors. Russell said the location is perfect, away from the campus’s main traffic, and close to an existing ecological restoration area where chemical pesticides are not used.

Bees add to the natural beauty of the landscape, while also contributing an estimated $15 billion to the U.S. economy every year by pollinating crops and wild and native plants. Nearly 90 percent of plant species rely on pollinators like bees to reproduce — and with 40 percent of pollinator species potentially at risk of extinction worldwide, their loss would also have great impact.

The Office is partnering with the Shue Bee Farm, Russiaville, to establish and maintain the campus bees. As part of the agreement, half of the honey harvested will be donated to the Cougar Cupboard food pantry, which benefits the campus community.

Tuholski said bee experts from the farm plan to speak during Sustainability Week April 10 to 14, 2023, and have offered to arrange beekeeping training for anyone interested.

The previously underused site is perfect as a pollinator area, he added, because of its proximity to plants and the creek — and its distance from campus buildings.

“Beehives thrive when they have sunlight and nearby water, and humans prefer it when they are away from main thoroughfares,” he said. “This location is an ideal fit for this project.”

IU Kokomo’s Office of Sustainability has also earned Tree Campus USA designation, given by the Arbor Day Foundation, for the last three years.

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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