Rutgers beekeeping club makes a comeback
After nearly a two-year hiatus from the Rutgers campus, The Hive — The Rutgers Bee Keeping Association — is making a triumphant return.
The club was originally established by Rutgers alumnus Chris Farina, who said an apiculture class he took in his Spring 2012 semester inspired him to keep bees.
“Many beehives at that time were in an overgrown area behind the Douglass Community Gardens and had no real infrastructure or people caring for them. With the help of Professor (Tim) Schuler and other Rutgers staff, we moved the hives behind the Cook Campus Floriculture Greenhouse’s backyard. A couple of friends joined in as officers and the club started,” he said.
Apart from the issues the beehives were experiencing, Farina’s reason for starting this club had both an innovative and educational intent behind it.
“I always found beekeeping fascinating, and realized Rutgers had no presence of beekeepers," he said. "The idea was to grow the hives behind the Floriculture Greenhouse into a strong bee yard, so that students had greater opportunities to learn, and eventually have hives strong enough to split and be able to harvest more honey to sell and therefore fund the club.”
The club experienced some setbacks, most of which started after Farina graduated from Rutgers.
Schuler left the University, resulting in the club losing support from the school. While it existed on paper, few students helped care for the bees, and this lack of care lead to many of the hives' deaths, he said. Without the bees to produce honey, funding for the club dried up as well.
Farina said one of the most significant drawbacks was the necessity of having students help during the summer months when bees are active, as opposed to fall and winter when students are typically around.
During this past summer, Farina got in contact with current Rutgers University students’ and now official officers of the club, Adam Butrico, Lauren Roynestad and Allen Gong, respectively the group's president, vice president and secretary.
“I’ve been helping these new officers since I first started talking to them a few months back and want to get them as solidly set up as possible for the greatest chances of reviving this club. I hope to see our bee yard grow back up to the 11 hives we used to have and boost membership. Active membership is what we need to keep the club going after they graduate and so on,” he said.
Roynestad, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said The Hive may already be on its way to achieving a promising amount of potential new members.
“Many students who came to Rutgers Day 2016 were very excited about the club. I even recognized some of the same people at the Involvement Day Fair for the fall 2016 semester. We accomplished this sort of word of mouth popularity, we’ve already reached a large part of the Rutgers community and it’s really exciting,” she said.
Gong, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior, credits the popularity garnished at the Rutgers Day celebration to their innovative display.
The club had an "observation hive out," so people could see a frame of bees and how they work, he said.
Butrico, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior, said he feels there is a greater task at hand and an urgency to educate the community, particularly due to the important role bees play in the ecosystem.
“Bees are incredibly important," he said. "The New Jersey Bee Keeping Association has (announced) that over a decade, the number of beekeepers have decreased from 5,000 to 3,000, so we are trying to stimulate new people to get into the practice.”
A larger issue for the beekeeping community is the threat of an external parasitic Varroa mite, which attacks honeybee colonies. One of the club’s long-term goals is to conduct research on this mite, Butrico said.
Because Rutgers is a big science and research university, Roynestad is setting the groundwork to make the club strong enough that in a few years, they can conduct research.
The club also hopes to change the stigma people have around bees.
“It's fun to see people’s perspective change. People tend to think of hornets, yellow jackets, wasps and they give that same behavior to honeybees. They think that honeybees will sting unprovoked, but they won’t, they only protect their hives," Butrico said. "It’s nice to see people understand that bees aren’t that aggressive.”
Jennifer Marin is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.