Michael Lewis & Kasandra Boor
THE BEES LOVE THE TIDE
What’s the buzz about the Bee Club and its goal of a bee-friendly campus?
While lounging around the University of Alabama campus, you may notice some bees buzzing around. However, what you won’t immediately notice are the students dedicating their time and energy to making sure those bees and other pollinators have a safe place to thrive.
These students are members of the Bee Club at the University of Alabama. This club has only been around for a year and a half yet is making great strides towards their ultimate goal of getting the University of Alabama certified as a bee-friendly campus. It all began with the coming-together of six individuals, each passionate about different aspects of the environment, brought together by Monica Watkins, the director of the University of Alabama arboretum. Harris Bolus, President of the Bee Club, began his time at Alabama by running for SGA Senator. He drew on his love of gardening to push for community gardens during his two years as Senator. However, during his time as Senator, he was unable to get anything off the ground. After speaking with Watkins and
explaining what it was he wanted to accomplish, she was able to put him in touch with people who would eventually become other officers of the newly-born Bee Club.
“I wanted to start gardens, others were really interested in bees, others were interested in pesticide reform. This club was created to hit all of our goals,” said Bolus.
Their main goal, from the very beginning, was getting the University of Alabama certified as a ‘bee-friendly’ campus through Bee City USA, a non-profit under the Xerces Society, which is focused on the conservation of endangered species. In order to receive this certification, the University must have pollinator gardens, educational outreach, safe pesticides, and beehives. The Bee Club is working to check each of these things off the list one-by-one.
The place they spend most of their time is the arboretum. It is located just ten minutes away from campus, down Veterans Memorial Parkway, and is considered a part of the University of Alabama. Bolus describes it as a “big patch of forest that is treated as a nature museum.” There is a greenhouse with exotic and native plants, a pond with benches around it, forest trails for hiking, a community and pollinator garden, a compost area, a solar kiln to dry out wood for projects, and beehives. It is open to the public and hosts many of the Bee Club events.
An important event that the Bee Club hosts is a planting day. There is one main planting day at each garden for each season. Their last planting day was approved to be worth three Greek points, which has become a goal for any planting days in the future. Bolus believes that Greek points draw people to events which is exactly what they want. These planting days are remembered fondly by both Bolus and Vice President Liza Lamanna and the first planting day ever held by the Bee Club remains one of their favorite memories. “It was a small group and no one really knew each other, but everyone became really good friends after a relaxing day at the arboretum planting native Alabama plants and listening to music,” said Lamanna.
Not only is there a garden at the arboretum but there is also one at the Rise School, a preschool on the University of Alabama campus. Members of the club volunteer here during the week to tend to the garden and help the children learn more about the garden and the bees that pollinate it. They are planning on having an event at the Rise Center to paint bee houses in the future.
Each of these events is designed to help the club move closer to their goal but to also raise more awareness of the club itself and what it stands for. Lamanna joined the Bee Club because she “wanted to start a conversation of environmental change on this campus.” Bolus wants the same thing.
“The campus has such a great potential to be a good resource for bees. There is so much room to plant those native plants which are educational but also helps preserve some of those endangered species and the pollinators that need them,” said Bolus.
Through tabling, they hope to get more students involved. Bolus encourages conversation between club members and other students on topics that interest them, not just bees or pollinators but any and all environmental issues because it’s all important and deserves to be talked about.
The new Bee Club pins may sport the quote, “The Bees Love the Tide” but it’s just as fitting to say, “The Tide Loves the Bees”.