Grove City College will be breaking ground this fall to build a haven for bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects on campus.
The pollinator-friendly garden is part of a larger effort to learn more about pollinators and the diseases affecting honey bee populations around the globe, according to Dr. Tracy S. Farone, professor of Biology at Grove City College, who is heading up the project. She’ll be working with students and potentially other faculty to advance the work.
Farone has been on sabbatical for the past seven months, working in Europe, around the U.S. and throughout Pennsylvania with various beekeepers and academics to study aspects of apiculture in the literature, research and the field. She has been speaking about bee health at professional conferences to veterinarians and beekeepers.
“At this point, I’ve had my nose in 3,000 to 4,000 hives,” Farone said.
The world’s bee population has been in trouble in recent decades due to habitat loss, emerging diseases, pesticides and climate change. Honey bees and other pollinators are necessary for one third of the nation’s food production, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The loss of managed and wild bee populations could lead to food shortages and drive up consumer prices. Veterinarians have recently been mandated to help with honey bee health issues, including antibiotic resistance issues and food chemical residues that can affect us all.
“The new Grove City College garden is intended to bring awareness to ‘One Health’ issues and how all of creation is connected,” Farone said. One Health recognizes that the health of people is connected to the health of animals and the environment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Our garden will be a part of a larger effort to study and combat the threat to pollinators that includes government agencies, academic partners, beekeeping associations, farmers, master gardeners, veterinarians, and rural development agencies. Bee health is crucial to the sustainability of our food sources. Students will be able to get hands-on experience and a variety of research opportunities will be available as the project develops. We’re already about a year ahead of schedule – thanks be to God,” she said.
The garden’s initial construction and development is being funded by grants Farone secured from a private donor and matching funds.
“Our biology research students will do the lion’s share of work on the garden, but anyone with gardening skills and a love of the outdoors may be able to participate in the project, “Farone said.
“We’re expecting to get some buy-in from students from other disciplines,” Farone said. “For example, we’re hoping that engineering students can help design or build new beehives, and Entrepreneurship students can use their talents to market a line of honey that we hope the bees will produce in our garden.”
Grove City College’s pollinator garden will be one of just a handful of other dedicated gardens in Pennsylvania that provide a space for students to learn more about bees and other pollinators.
Construction and planting will begin the fall, and in the spring of 2020, bees and beehives will be introduced. The site on the northeastern corner of the College’s 180-acre campus provides nearby natural forage and is out of the way of students and nearby homes.
For information about Biology at Grove City College, visit www.gcc.edu/biol.