All-School Read Leads to Hands-on Learning
Posted 05/10/2016 05:30AM

Berkshire’s east side of campus is now home to a hive of bees thanks to sixth former Evan Liddy. Evan was inspired to connect with local environmentalists and farmers in the Berkshire area as part of the culminating project for his Sustainability class after reading the 2015 All-School Read, “Oil and Honey” by Bill McKibben.

Russ Wilson, a member of the Berkshire County Beekeeping Club, served as a mentor for Evan during his project. “Russ has over 60 hives from here to Boston that help him research mites and how they affect bees,” explained Evan. “Our hive will help him with his research.”

Mr. Wilson owns the bees and will continue to care for them, checking the hive and providing sugar water as it becomes established. He is researching the phenomenon colony collapse disorder in which the majority of worker bees in a colony are absent, leaving behind the queen, honey and immature bees. The disorder is significant to the world economy as many agricultural crops are pollinated by honey bees. To aid him in his research, Wilson has a hive every six miles from Sheffield to Springfield and intends to increase his study transect all the way to Boston.

“They’ll get lots of sunlight here, and a nice breeze,” said Wilson, who estimates that the hive, once established, would be home to upwards of 60,000 bees. That figure includes two queens, according to Wilson, one of which he named after his mentee. The hive– or apiary— on campus is situated in the northeast corner of the solar field, an area that allows some isolation and provides nectar and pollen sources in the nearby fields and woods. 

“I told him the least I could do was to name it Evan, in honor of you,” laughed Wilson.

To keep the bees safe from curious bears, the hive will be doubly secure by the solar field fence as well as a small surrounding electric. 

Evan’s vision is to have a pollinator garden planted to promote natural pollinators. Next year, while he will be hiking the Appalachian Trail before attending Colorado College in the fall of 2017, he hopes science classes at Berkshire might incorporate the hive into the curriculum to show students firsthand the importance of pollinators.

“This project has been a great experience in learning how to integrate sustainability on a small scale,” said Liddy. He continued, “I've also taken away a wealth of knowledge on pollinators, and I hope the project gets people talking about how we can help a species in decline.”