Honeybees at the University of Regina

By Dale Johnson Posted: June 10, 2016 6:00 a.m.

Honeybees pollinate plants and produce honey
Honeybees pollinate plants and produce honey Photo courtesy of Robin Lawless, School of Journalism

There’s a buzz at the University of Regina about a new colony of 20,000 honeybees.

“The University prides itself on being part of the community at large, and by adding a colony of bees we become a stronger part of that whole,” explains Robin Lawless, a lab instructor at the School of Journalism, who donated the bees from his home colony.
“By having an apiary, we have brought in pollinators for the University's – and neighbors’ – edible  landscapes,” says Carol Reyda, the University’s Sustainability Coordinator.

“With the population of bees in great decline, having an apiary is one small step the university can take to help the local environment beyond our borders,” she says.

Having a colony of bees on campus will also benefit students.

“We have several student volunteers who have offered to help out with the hive's maintenance. Most are biology undergrads and post grads. It’s our hope that they will benefit from first-hand work with the bees in pursuant to their studies,” Lawless says.

Reyda says having bees on campus fits in with the Sustainability and Community Engagement Fund project, as well as the University's Strategic Plan.

“The University's Strategic Plan for Sustainability is focused around Education for Sustainable Development and the concept of a living lab,” explains Reyda.   

“A key tenant of ESD is that most complex problems require an interdisciplinary approach; faculty members from journalism, psychology, and biology, and staff from three different units have worked on this project. It also connects with the University's Strategic Plan in each of the three strategic priorities – student success, research impact and commitment to our communities. Learning happens in the classroom and on the grounds of the University,” she says.

As sweet as this project sounds, some people may have a fear of bees. Lawless says people with allergic reactions to bee stings, or a phobia about stinging insects, “should know that although the bees’ defensive mechanism is to sting, that only happens if an intruder opens the hive or bothers the bees in the hive in an unnatural way. Honeybees will not go out of their way to sting people the way a wasp or hornet will. They will not be aggressive towards humans without provocation.”

Lawless says having a bee colony on campus provides an opportunity for people to learn more about bees. “We will be working on an on-going education program to help the university community understand more about the fragile nature of our pollinators.”