Harvard’s Cambridge campus next spring will be home to a set of beehives aimed at supporting the university’s organic landscaping program and helping assess the program’s environmental health impact. Thanks to a $2,500 grant from Harvard’s Office of Sustainability, the Harvard Undergraduate Beekeepers organization—which currently maintains one hive in the Pforzheimer Breezeway on campus—plans to establish several more, and use the hives to conduct research on the health of honeybee colonies in an urban ecosystem free of pesticides.
“Our long-term goal is to set up a couple of hives on (the Cambridge) campus so we’re overlapping the whole area,” said the group’s adviser Chengsheng (Alex) Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard School of Public Health, in a November 20, 2013 Harvard Crimson article.
Lu’s research has suggested that pesticide use contributes to bee “colony collapse disorder,” in which adult bees abandon their hives. He and other scientists have been alarmed at the worldwide loss of between 30% and 90% of honeybee colonies since 2006. Bees—beyond producing honey—are prime pollinators of roughly one-third of the crop species in the U.S.
Use of common pesticide linked to bee colony collapse (HSPH press release)
Searching for causes of bee colony collapse (HSPH in the news)