The SAAS Bee Club conducts its annual honey harvest on the roof of the Arts Center this autumn. Many students attend class in the Arts Center with no idea that there are three hives of honeybees that are busy at work right above them. The Bee Club, under the supervision of Dexter Chapin and Melinda Mueller, cares for these bees and harvests their honey every autumn. When asked about bees and their importance in Earth’s ecosystem, “Bees are the neatest thing we’ve got,” says Chapin.
Students will learn more about bees during this hands-on educational opportunity. Young people need beekeeping skills because the profession is dying and the crucial wild bees are dying out. “About 40% of your dinner plate depends on bees. It’s one of those things that the individual can make a difference in,” says Chapin.
Most plants and animals rely on bees and other pollinators to survive. Plants cannot produce fruits or vegetables without pollination, herbivores cannot survive without plants to eat, and carnivores cannot survive without those plant-fed animals to feed on.
As humans, we can thank bees for a third of all the non-meat foods we eat. Bees pollinate 80% of all the plants in the world. But beekeepers noticed an unusual decline of 30-90 percent of their beehives around 2007. The main reason for hive loss is pesticides that contain neonicotinoids. This toxic chemical harms and can even kill bees. In order to save the bees and a major part of the human food system, farmers need to stop using pesticides that contain neonicotinoids.
To help bees thrive on a small scale, support your local beekeepers, plant bee-friendly plants in your yard, or get involved in beekeeping yourself. “It’s an interesting way to see how something as common as honey is made, and it’s fun to make it ourselves! It really makes you feel involved in something,” says Bee Club member Erin Clack ‘17.
Chapin states that beekeeping is not dangerous unless you’re allergic to bees. Honeybees very rarely sting unless their hive is threatened. Oftentimes, people who think they have been stung by a honeybee were actually stung by a wasp, hornet, or some other aggressive insect.
If you don’t have time for Bee Club, space for beehives, or you just want to do something extra to help our beloved bees, plant bee-friendly plants such as apple trees. Washington State is famous for our apples. Once planted, apple trees require little to no maintenance and bees can pollinate their blossoms.
Eating local in-season produce is an important step in reducing one's carbon footprint by minimizing the fossil fuel used in transportation. Right now, apples are in season so they pair perfectly with the honey that the Bee Club will harvest this October.
Dexter Chapin says his favorite part of the honey harvest is putting his share of the honey on a biscuit. For a seasonal autumn twist, you can use the honey collected in the SAAS honey harvest to make honey apple butter.
Stir about 5 lbs of peeled and cored Washington apples, a couple teaspoon of water and 1 cup of your local honey together with your favorite fall blend of spices to taste (I prefer cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and a dash of turmeric). Place into a slow cooker on high for one hour. Then turn the heat to low and leave it until you can mash the apples with a fork, which could be anywhere between 8-11 hours. The spread can be used on anything from bread to meats, or heated and eaten with a spoon!