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Students harvest hundreds of pounds of honey from bees on campus

  • A photo of honeycomb.
  • A photo of honey bottled to sell.

Posted on September 25, 2017

This month, beekeepers across the region began harvesting honey created during the summer. Grand Valley State University students and faculty members are part of this group and recently gathered honey produced at the apiaries on campus. 

In early September, members of the student organization GVSU Beekeepers harvested, extracted and bottled more than 360 pounds of honey. The honey came from apiaries at the Sustainable Agriculture Project on the Allendale Campus and Meijer Campus in Holland. An apiary is a collection of hives.

"Honeybees pollinate one-third of crops grown in the U.S.," said Megan Damico, a senior biomedical sciences major and president of the GVSU Beekeepers. "They pollinate all kinds of produce, from citrus fruits in the South, up to apples and berries in the North, over to almonds in the West. They're key to our healthy diets."

The honey is for sale for $8 per bottle in room 324 of Lake Ontario Hall on the Allendale Campus and at the front desk at the Meijer Campus in Holland, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Researching honeybee health 

Honeybees are disappearing and researchers around the world, including Grand Valley faculty members and students, are studying the reasons why. The group is taking a close look at honeybee habitats and health, and organizing community outreach activities to educate people about the species' importance.

Anne Marie Fauvel, affiliate faculty of liberal studies, hopes a mobile app developed at Grand Valley will shed light on honeybee health in Michigan and beyond. 

The app is part of Michigan PollenCheck, a project led by Fauvel to study bee pollen to project the health of hives in Michigan. The app was developed by two Grand Valley students and computing professor Jonathan Engelsma. More than 20 beekeepers across the state have been trained to collect pollen and submit hive data via the app. 

After data has been collected, Fauvel will connect with Bee Informed Partnership (BIP), a national organization that researches the mortality of honeybees. 

"The app will eventually be used by beekeepers and researchers nationally," said Fauvel, president of the Holland Area Beekeepers Association. 

Michigan PollenCheck stems from another research project led by Engelsma and funded by a portion of a $2.3 million USDA grant awarded to BIP. The project focuses on collecting data from honeybee colonies using a variety of techniques and tools, including a website developed by a team of students. The website (hivescales.beeinformed.org) houses information captured by electronic scales that are installed underneath more than 150 live honeybee colonies across the country. The scales capture weight, humidity and temperature every 15 minutes. Read more.

"Every morning when the sun warms a hive, we'll see the weight drop about four pounds as bees leave to find nectar and pollen," Engelsma said. "Around mid-day, we see the weight increase as bees bring nectar and pollen loads back to the hive. Observing weight increases and decreases can reveal a lot about a hive; it's healthy for a colony to gain weight, not lose it."