EarthConnection Reaps Benefits of Honey Bee Hive
A partnership with Dr. Gene Kritsky and Mount St. Joseph University a few years back brought the first hive of honey bees to the grounds of EarthConnection, a ministry of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnnati and center for learning and reflection about living lightly on Earth. S. Winnie Brubach, facilities coordinator, is working with Dr. Kritsky, dean of Behavioral and Natural Sciences and professor of Biology at Mount St Joseph University, to care for the hive.
Dr. Kritsky first introduced the idea to S. Winnie when he realized he needed to move two hives within Cincinnati’s Spring Grove Cemetery to a different location. Moving the hives away from the cemetery would ensure that the bees would not return to the original hive location. The solution: bringing them to the west side of Cincinnati. Dr. Kritsky has worked with some of his students to provide for the bees. S. Winnie said the EarthConnection vegetable garden and the wild flowers growing about the property were the perfect home. “One of our neighbors down the street said she noticed there were more honey bees in the neighborhood because her garden produced more that year,” she added.
For thousands of years, the honey bee has been a vital part of human culture. S. Winnie explains, “The honey bee is not a native insect. Because our country didn’t have honey bees to help with pollinating their farms, the first settlers to this country from Europe brought the bees with them. Now there are many professional and amateur beekeepers in the country. It has become a $16 billion-a-year business. The honey bee faces severe threats from diseases, mites, pesticides and overwork. There is also the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder, which causes seemingly healthy bees to abandon their hives en masse, never to return. In some regions, up to 90 percent of bees have disappeared.
“Honey bees are important pollinators for flowers, fruits, and vegetables,” S. Winnie continued. “They transfer pollen between the male and female parts, allowing plants to grow seeds and fruit. Bees are probably most famous for their delicious honey! They produce honey as food for the hive during winter. Luckily, they produce two to three times more than they need – so we get to enjoy it too.”
For the last few years, Dr. Kritsky and his students have kept a hive at EarthConnection. They observe the bees’ behavior, how they build their hive, how much honey they produce, etc. With students unable to report to campus this past spring, S. Winnie has been feeding the bees with sugar water until they can provide for themselves. In exchange, she is happy to enjoy their work in the EC gardens as well as the fruits of their labor in eating some of the “extra” honey from the hive.