Science spotlight: bees invade USD’s campus

By Brittany Carava

As spring rolls around, honeybees take it as a cue to populate USD more than ever. Lately, it’s not just the cuddly, trashcan digging, raccoons that are plaguing USD’s campus. The university has had multiple instances where an overabundance of bees has created a problem for the students and faculty trying to gain access to various areas of campus. Ironically, despite this over abundance on our campus, for the last seven years there has been a steady decline in the honeybee population throughout the country.

It is still a mystery why honeybee populations are rapidly declining, but researchers have identified a possible central cause known as Colony Collapse Disorder.

According to researcher Renee Johnson, starting in 2006 beekeepers were reporting sudden drops in their colony populations along the East Coast. The US Department of Agriculture is currently still working to confirm the exact causes of CCD but they believe that pesticides, parasites, mites or other environmental factors could contribute to CCD. Whatever the cause, the USDA’s main concern is that honeybees account for one-third of the food that people consume, a concern that suppliers of honeybee products aren’t taking lightly.

In order to help combat this decline of bees, the popular premium ice cream brand Haagen-Dazs has created a “Help the Honey Bees” campaign to raise funding for a research initiative that they have partnered with at Penn State University. For each “bee built flavor,” Haagen-Dazs is donating part of the proceeds to their research project focused on providing a facility for honeybees to pollinate in a safe environment free from potential viruses or mites.

It may seem ironic that despite these national issues with the honeybee population, USD is still attracting a large population to its campus. It could be the result of the various bee-attracting plants that are planted around campus such as the honeysuckles planted in various areas on campus. Also, the warm climate of San Diego could be a factor according to researcher Khalil Hamdan.
“In mid-Spring most honeybees swarm under warm conditions on sunny days,” Hamdan said.

During these warm conditions, honeybees actually require a large supply of water to keep the hives at a cool temperature. With many bodies of water on campus, such as the large fountain in front of the Jenny Craig Pavillion, it would make sense that they have created hives close to these areas. Despite the honeybees’ contributions to making our campus beautiful by pollinating the flowers and plants around campus, they can become a nuisance for students to deal with.

Public Safety has taken actions to combat this issue by blocking off areas on campus near hives or swarm areas. Elizabeth Tanner, an adjunct professor of biology at USD has also taken notice of issue.
“We don’t want this to become a public health problem, we want to encourage their survival on campus but keep the campus safe for students,” Tanner said.

Students have also been inconvenienced both in residence halls and other areas of campus.

“A hive broke and there were bees all over the stairs of Cuyamaca. The main stairwell had hundreds covering the walls!” said sophomore and resident of The Vista Alcala Apartments Andrea Zammit.
Alexis Rogers a sophomore who works on campus explained, “ The bees made me late to work.”

However, as scary or inconvenient as the honeybee population is on campus, sophomore Anna Keig summed up, “They don’t sting or get angry unless they are provoked,” Keig said. “I can totally understand trying to avoid them or walk around them, but I don’t see them as a big deal at all.”

In other words, Toreros, exercise caution when walking through bee populated areas but let them enjoy their natural habitat and let them continue to make our campus beautiful.