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Panel Warns Masses to Bee Prepared

Shelby Friedel ‘17, Clarke Forum Columnist

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The Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues hosted a panel of bee experts on Wednesday, March 1, to speak about the significance of bees and beekeeping.

The panelists discussed their own experiences and study of bees, touching upon the vast significance of maintaining the bee population along with the threats it faces. The event drew a crowd of academically diverse students such as Rowan Humphries ’19 who “knew nothing about bees before attending this event. After the panel, I felt much more informed about the importance of bees in today’s society.”

Jolana Rankin, program manager for the Clarke Forum echoed Humphries’ statement.

“I found it very intriguing because I am scared to death of bees and I learned so much and I learned that there are over 400 species of bees, like wasps and hornets and it was just so enlightening!” she stated. “I don’t know if I will feel more comfortable around them, but it’s a start!”

The panel consisted of Olivia Bernauer, a second-year master’s student at the University of Maryland studying in the Dennis vanEngelsdorp Bee Lab, Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban, professor emerita of anthropology at Rhode Island College who is also a faculty member of the doctoral program in education as well as a long time beekeeper and bee educator, Rodney Morgan, independent beekeeper and beekeeper at the Dickinson College Farm, Samuel Ramsey, Ph.D. student studying in the Dennis vanEngelsdorp Bee Lab at the University of Maryland, and Marcus Welker, projects coordinator for the Center for Sustainability Education at Dickinson College and beekeeper to the Dickinson College campus bees.

The panelists came from vastly different bee related backgrounds. Welker, who served as the moderator for the panelists, began the discussion with a brief history of his experience beekeeping, then he explained how the Dickinson College campus acquired its bee population. Morgan then followed with a discussion of local bees and their significance to farming and crop production. He also discussed the impact of certain farming methods on the bee population. Bernauer then presented on “the other kinds of bees,” emphasizing that there are more bees that hold significance to the world than just the honeybee. Fluehr-Lobban presented on the cultural significance bees have held throughout time and throughout her worldly travels as an anthropologist. Finally, Ramsey presented his research on one of the biggest threats to the bee population, the Varroa destructor, a mite that “suck[s] the blood from both the adults and developing brood,” according to She also maintained that it was only recently discovered that these parasites feed on the fat body of the bees, not just the blood. This discovery means the impact of the Varroa destructor in a bee population is even more deadly than previously thought because bees rely on their fat bodies for several internal functions and damage or loss of the fat body is fatal.

Sam Weisman ’18 enjoyed the great range of viewpoints that were expressed at the event.

“Perspectives ranged from parasites to the sociology of beekeeping…Ramsey’s phenomenal research on parasites conveyed through microscopic video and photographs was chilling. Caroline Fluehr-Lobban brilliantly articulated the past and present of human relationships with bees.”

The panelists also emphasized the significance of bees and beekeeping in the world today. Further, they emphasized that if someone encounters a swarm of bees in nature they should not spray them, but, instead, they should call their local beekeeping association. According to the panelists, these bees can be collected and placed into a colony and make sure they are protected.

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Panel Warns Masses to Bee Prepared