Illinois Wesleyan Lands Bee Campus USA Certification
Oct. 1, 2020
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — In keeping with Illinois Wesleyan University’s commitment to sustainability,
a coalition of students, faculty and Bloomington residents have transformed the IWU
Peace Garden into a nationally recognized safe haven for bees and other native pollinators, earning
the University certification as an affiliate of Bee Campus USA.
As bee populations continue to decline globally, Bee Campus USA endorses colleges and universities that create well-maintained pollinator habitats
and promote bee conservation efforts within the local community, among other criteria.
Over a hundred campuses currently participate in this initiative. Illinois Wesleyan
is one of five colleges in Illinois to receive the designation.
“Earning this certification is a big step forward,” said Professor of Political Science
Jim Simeone, faculty advisor of the Peace Garden and the IWU Beekeepers Club. “It
shows how a few committed students can make a difference in shaping our sustainability
curriculum. The certification would not have happened without their work.”
Economics and political science major David Werner '21 planted the idea of constructing
an on-campus apiary –– a place to house bees –– and applying for Bee Campus USA certification
at a Peace Garden meeting, and from there, the idea quickly grew. Student Senate Sustainability
Commissioner and biology major Ankush Kecht ’23 helped secure funding, and with assistance
from the Acacia Fraternity, students assembled the apiary, created a wildflower garden
to attract pollinators and purchased the bees themselves. Additionally, Peace Garden
intern and environmental studies major Janna Fitzgerald ’20 drafted apiary signage.
“We decided to name the apiary after IWU President Lloyd Bertholf who was an entomologist
and bee researcher,” Simeone said. “Janna inspected President Bertholf’s papers in
the IWU archive and found a number of quotations related directly to bees.”
Kecht is now working with the GREENetwork on campus to raise funds for the signs.
The students’ dedication to seeing this project through, from taking beekeeping classes
at Heartland Community College to raising funds for the necessary equipment, demonstrates
the kind of work ethic that will further their careers, according to Simeone.
“IWU students are able to pick up a project and run with it—as David did with the
Bee Campus initiative. They learn to navigate the university's authority structure
and work cooperatively with multiple constituencies. They reach out into the larger
community as all our Action Research Center students do. These kinds of project management
skills make our students very attractive to employers and effective citizens.”
Though beekeeping may sound like a niche hobby, this initiative has touched every
branch of the Illinois Wesleyan community, from collaboration with RSOs and Greek
Life to outreach programs with local elementary school students. Over 30 students
are currently involved with the RSO’s honey harvest, with the assistance of several
Bloomington beekeepers. George C. and Ella Beach Lewis Endowed Chair of Biology Given
Harper also uses the honey bee colonies as a teaching tool in his Environmental Studies
In addition to preserving endangered species, the benefits of a Bee Campus include
increased small business opportunities such as pollinator-friendly landscaping and
native seed suppliers, improved local food production and heightened awareness of
local biological diversity. The apiary is surrounded by native prairie plants, which
are vital to preserving native pollinators like miner bees.
While not a bee fanatic at the project’s outset, Simeone has found that adapting to
the challenges of beekeeping illustrates what good conservation looks like:
“We can't always do exactly what we want with them—even when intervening for their
own good as when we treat for varroa mites—and we always have to consider how our
keeping activities will impact them. Our response to their behavior fits the approach
to sustainability we have sought: working with nature, not dictating to it.”