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CCC beekeeping program creating a buzz

CCC beekeeping program creating a buzz

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Brent Adrian won’t be listening to relaxing music when he goes to sleep.

He will be hearing the buzz of thousands of bees.

A new shipment of Italian bees was delivered to Central Community College–Grand Island this week and the insects are being kept in an observation hive. It’s a container that allows for viewing bees as they move about.

The observation hive is a learning tool used for the beekeeping program offered through the college. When it’s not being used for educational purposes, though, Adrian said he will keep it, and the 4,500 bees inside, at his home.

“I’ll put them outside during the day and move them inside at night. They’ll be in my bedroom,” he said.

The buzz the bees emit is like music to Adrian’s ears. He says it’s soothing.

“It works,” he said with a shrug of his shoulders.

That might be odd to others, but not to a beekeeper. Adrian became a beekeeper after taking courses through the college. Beekeeping courses started to be offered there about four years ago through Extended Learning Services. He was looking for a way to spend his free time and checked out the course.

“My wife said, ‘Brent, you need to get a hobby.’ I looked at raising rabbits and raising quail and gardening, but ultimately I discovered this beekeeping class was going to be taught on the Grand Island campus. So I joined it,” Adrian said.

He and other members of his family now care for their own bee hives.

Adrian, who is a public speaking instructor at the college, helps to teach portions of the advanced beekeeping course.

He also led a program Thursday on campus about bees and the important role they play as pollinators. The presentation was held with other activities this week on CCC campuses in honor of Earth Day on Sunday.

The Grand Island campus has been recognized as a Bee Campus USA, a title given to institutions that promote habitats for pollinators. The college has been focusing on environmental sustainability in recent years, offering educational presentations and incorporating environmentally friendly initiatives on the campuses, such as composting, recycling, a wind turbine at the Hastings campus and a bike-sharing program. Bee colonies have become part of that growing effort.

There are thousands of bees in three hives on the Grand Island campus. During the peak season, there can be 70,000-80,000 bees per hive, said Judy Weston, CCC’s community programming coordinator.

The bees are used to teach those learning about beekeeping. The program, which includes both beginning and advanced courses, has been successful. It has drawn students from around the state and even some from Iowa and Kansas.

Caring for bees is part of the program and so is educating about their role as pollinators.

Adrian said bees are one of the few pollinators that are manageable, meaning they can be moved from place to place or state to state. For example, the non-aggressive Italian bees in the observation hive came from California, where they were used to pollinate olive groves.

The important role of honeybees in agriculture production has taken a hit due to colony collapse disorder that results in the death of bee colonies. Adrian said it is caused by pesticides, the spread of diseases and pests. The demise of bees has become so dire in some countries that people are pollinating crops by hand. Drones are also being used to pollinate.

“I think it’s sad when we are already looking at trying to replace insects with robots. It’s just not the way the world was intended to work,” he said.

Adrian sees his beekeeping hobby as a form of activism, often using bees as a topic of his public speaking engagements.

Beekeeping has become part of his life, but his dip into it wasn’t initially successful. The first two hives he had didn’t survive. He tried again and they have thrived.

“I’ve gotten up to about 30 hives,” Adrian said, adding that at one time he had half a million bees living in his backyard.

Beekeepers tend to focus on either raising bees for honey or for queen bees that they can sell. Adrian does the latter.

“It’s usually one or the other. I gave up my honey production last year,” he said.

Honey the bees produce at the college has proven to be beneficial. It has taken the program beyond just educating those interested in beekeeping. Honey extracted from the hives is sold. That money goes into a foundation fund for youths to attend camps. Last year it raised $482, Weston said.

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