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Macomb Community College Bee Squad has fun while helping to maintain the vital honey bee population

– Wednesday, July 6, 2016 12:00AM

Club has seven hives up and running at the college’s Center Campus

With honey bee populations declining, Jean-Francois Faloppa, a Macomb Community College culinary arts professor, some of his students and community members decided to do something about it, while earning a sweet reward in return.

Macomb’s Bee Squad, now in its second year, recently set up seven honey bee hives on the “bee deck” that club members built this past spring on the college’s Center Campus in Clinton Township.  Each hive has the potential to produce 30 to 50 pounds of honey. Last year, the Bee Squad operated three hives and harvested enough honey to fill more than 90 12-ounce jars. 

Some of last year’s honey harvest was sold to help pay for supplies and fund the club’s activities, while the remainder was donated to the college’s Food for Thought Pantry, a food pantry that assists students through times of financial hardship. But honey production is just part of the club’s mission. 

“The main purpose of the Bee Squad is to provide an engaging educational opportunity for students and serve the community by helping to maintain the local honey bee population. There is a lot to learn from these little insects, and they are in need of help.” Faloppa said. “Beekeeping is also a great hobby.  I have been doing it for four years and have found it to be very relaxing. As a kid, I used to love to go to the local bee yard and see what was going on. It all brings back great memories.” 

Bee Squad member Jim Ford, who got into beekeeping with Faloppa’ s help after enrolling in Macomb’s culinary arts program on his retirement from the Air Force, said he currently has 13 hives at his home in St. Clair County’s Riley Township.  Ford, who recently graduated, said he gets a lot of enjoyment from tending the bees.

“I get the satisfaction of seeing the bees and what they do. Of course I also love getting the honey that they produce,” Ford said. “It’s relaxing to watch them, and I love telling people about them and the benefits of bees to society.”

Those benefits are considerable. Every year, honey bees pollinate $15 billion worth of crops, including more than 130 kinds of fruits and vegetables, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  About a third of the American diet benefits directly or indirectly from honey bee pollination.  But, honey bee populations managed by beekeepers have been in decline for the past 50 years. Contributing factors include disease, parasites, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure.  In a USDA survey released in May, beekeepers reported the varroa mite, a kind of parasite that attacks honey bees, was the leading problem for their hives in 2015.

So far, the hives on Macomb’s bee deck are thriving, Faloppa said. That is good to see, he said, because, for unknown reasons, last years’ hives did not survive the winter. 

About Macomb Community College
Macomb Community College (www.macomb.edu) is one of the nation’s leading community colleges, providing learning experiences to nearly 48,000 students annually. Macomb nationally ranks in the top two percent in the number of associate degrees awarded by community colleges and is the largest grantor of associate degrees in Michigan. The college’s comprehensive educational programming includes pre-collegiate experiences, university transfer and career preparation programs, bachelor degree completion and graduate degree programs, workforce training, professional education and certification, and continuing education and enrichment opportunities.

Media Contact: James Melton, 586.445.7271, meltonj@macomb.edu 

Jim Ford

Macomb Bee Squad member Jim Ford

Bee Squad

Macomb Bee Squad members tend hives on the “bee deck” at
Macomb Community College’s Center Campus in Clinton Township