Outback Teaching Apiary
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.
Update, January 2022
We celebrated a productive, educational, and tasty 2021 season in the apiary! It was the first year that Outback staff members received official beekeeping training and completed our own weekly hive inspections. Thank you so much to Marisa Papetti from Marie's Bees for an outstanding spring consultation, and to Peter Nolte from Rainy Day Bees for excellent service and support.
Our Bee Team captain and Operations Coordinator Sasha Mosier writes: "Since the start of 2021, I've worked closely with our pollinator friends. I hosted weekly hive checks from spring till winter, where students would help me check on and maintain the hives.
In the spring, we fed the bees sugar syrup as they got adjusted, and every week we made sure they had plenty of water, checked on both the honey and brood production, treated for mites, and cleaned frames if needed. Students in the Outback Farm Skills class and Outback staff even got to harvest honey, which gave out at the food pantry pop ups and farm tours. After a great year working with the bees, 5 student volunteers were able to help me winterize our hives. They're now tucked in for the winter and we can't wait to welcome the new season in spring! Through my experience beekeeping at the Outback Farm, I've learned so much and it's been truly special to work with the student community and to see others excited to learn about and work with bees."
If you're interested in working with the apiary, consider taking FAIR 235C or 235D - or to find out about volunteering, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.