Outback Teaching Apiary
The Outback is a place of reflection, education, advocacy and agriculture. It serves as a classroom, a laboratory, a research facility, and a place for students to relax, connect, and be inspired. Since the '70s we’ve been home to cows, pigs, rabbits, chickens, goats, sheep, and – since no farm would be complete without them – bees!
You’ve probably seen the headlines about colony collapse disorder and the rapid decline of bees and other pollinator species. This is due to a complex combination of habitat loss, pesticides, and a parasite called the Varroa mite that infects beehives. That's a huge problem, because about one-third of our diet comes from insect-pollinated plants. Losing honeybees has been called the “single greatest threat to our food supply.”
The good news is, WWU is making a difference. We started a new teaching apiary in 2019 with the support of our community beekeeper, Chris Harrington of beeagoodcitizen, and we're working to evolve and expand into a high-quality facility for teaching beekeeping, entomology, and the importance of pollinators for the environment and for our health. The apiary can inspire and connect many different departments throughout campus. Through surplus honey harvest (most is left for the bees to eat, as nature intended) and bee sales, students will have a unique opportunity to study, create, and manage a sustainable business.
The Outback Farm apiary hopes to serve as the heart of a larger pollinator corridor through Whatcom County. We can serve as a demonstration garden, a center for hands-on learning, and a resource for making Bellingham a bee-friendly city. As a step in that direction, students are leading the way to become a certified Bee Campus from the Xerces Society.
We hope to continue expanding the apiary into a modern facility that gives WWU students the best chance to learn about pollinators and honeybees while earning their degree. This includes constructing an informational kiosk, benches, and a glass-sided observation hive so that everyone can see what the bees are up to! This opens up learning opportunities for class, workshops, and activities with children and adults alike. We aim to host ecological educators from the community, professors and researchers from our own and other universities, and nonprofit agencies to offer lectures and workshops. The apiary will highlight student-led teaching for peer-to-peer learning. And we’ll engage in outreach to promote a campus-wide connection to pollinators and the ecological responsibility we all share.
Our most ambitious dreams are to eventually create a queen bee breeding program to combine the genes of bees with mite resistance (VSH traits) with locally adapted bees that thrive in the Pacific Northwest. This is strategic for the long-term sustainability of the Outback apiary, and it creates an opportunity for students to get hands-on experience not only with beekeeping and genetics but small business management, marketing, and sales.
Please consider helping support the WWU teaching apiary. By making a donation, you not only help the bees, but you become part of our team as we inspire students to engage with pollinators, the environment, and a future filled with sweetness.