Two hives containing more than 60,000 honey bees have found a home on the north side of Roosevelt University’s Schaumburg Campus where they are expected to contribute to healthy growth and sustainability of the campus’s prairie and community garden.
“The bees will be instrumental in cross pollinating our many varieties of plants and flowers,” predicted Paul Matthews, assistant vice president for campus planning and operations at Roosevelt University. “This is also a project that helps people get back on their feet in our communities,” he said.
Installed on July 15, the new bee apiary is being tended by a beekeeper from a social enterprise Chicago company called Sweet Beginnings, LLC, which has been providing ex-offenders with job opportunities in raising bees and collecting and selling honey since 2005.
“With this project, we are connecting sustainability and social justice, and are continuing to use Roosevelt’s Schaumburg Campus as a living laboratory,” said Rebecca Quesnell, Roosevelt’s sustainable operations coordinator who led the initiative with the help of Roosevelt students.
“We’re excited about our partnership with Roosevelt,” added Brenda Palms Barber, the CEO of Sweet Beginnings LLC, which tends to 100 hives at five locations, including Roosevelt’s Schaumburg Campus, which is the company’s first Northwest suburban location.
While the company sells honey and honey-infused skin care products under the beelove® label, it could be a year or more before the Roosevelt bee apiary produces honey for harvesting, packaging and consumption.
That’s because the bees first have to produce wax and build comb to store honey, most of which they will live off over the winter, likely multiplying their numbers by early next summer when significant harvesting could begin.
There are plans to add more hives next year as well, and the entire project is expected to be a learning opportunity for Roosevelt students who will be looking at the impact the honey bees have on native prairie pollinators, specifically other bees and wasps.
“We want to see the impact of honeybees (which are not native to America) on native prairie pollinators,” said Susan Weiner, assistant professor of biology.
Ten Roosevelt science students and Weiner already have collected data over the past two years on the number and diversity of native prairie pollinators at prairie sites at the Schaumburg Campus, Elgin Community College and the Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg.
“This is a one-on-one research experience with a professor. It’s been an amazing opportunity that you can’t get in the classroom,” said Roosevelt student Heather Burmeister.
An undergraduate biology major, Burmeister has been collecting and identifying specimens from the Schaumburg Campus prairie and analyzing RNA of specimens in a University science lab for the past two years. After graduating next year, she hopes to continue in the graduate biology program at Roosevelt.
The ongoing project, including research on the impact of many thousands of new honey bees being introduced at the 27-acre Schaumburg Campus is expected to be completed by 2019.