Seminary Professor and SFI Partner in Beekeeping

There are many interesting things happening around EMU including a project started by students and faculty member Kenton Derstine (who is also the Director of Field Education at Eastern Mennonite Seminary): creating the University’s own local beekeeping initiative.

There are currently four bee- hives on the hill behind Northlawn. Derstine maintains the majority of the beekeeping efforts and is mentoring and aided by Senior Tessa Gerberich. The beehives were put on campus last summer and have been supplying honey to the cafeteria ever since. Derstine has many years of experience with beekeeping as his interest began in fifth grade when he was ten years old.

He has maintained bees for decades in a variety or locations, including on the grounds of a Franciscan monastery in Indianapolis. The SFI group meets on Tuesday nights, and this week, they came together to discuss future beekeeping expansion opportunities and to learn more about beekeeping in general. Topics that Gerberich and Derstine eagerly covered were: what beekeeping involves, necessary equipment, and the details of the yearlong cycle of beekeeping and all it entails for the SFI members. In order for the art of bee- keeping to be maintained at EMU, there are several factors that the club is working on addressing. These include purchasing ad- equate equipment to facilitate more volunteers in the beekeeping efforts, finding volunteers to help harvest honey over the summer, and building interest in beekeeping

The hives are part of EMU’s larger sustainability efforts, which include five vegetables, herb gar- dens, fruit trees, asparagus hedges and raspberry bushes that students, faculty and staff tend and harvest.

The bees work to pollinate the grounds, and Derstine has even experimented with making lip- balm and candles from the wax.

The long-term hopes of the club are to integrate the joys of beekeeping into the broader campus, making it part of the curriculum of several classes.

They would also like to create a glass observation hive so that the bees can become accessible to the entire student body, eventually even making community connections.

Gerberich maintains that there has already been some local interest in the hives, and she hopes that they can serve as a means of bringing increasing community integration on campus.

Both Derstine and Gerberich insisted that bees are very gentle creatures, and that although there is the occasional “one-in-ten” time that they are stung, it is usually a result of poor planning on their part, or scaring the bees.

Gerberich said that her philosophy and passion for beekeeping can be best summarized by a quote from Sue Monk Kidd’s book, “The Secret Life of Bees.”

“I hadn’t been out to the hives before, so to start off she gave me a lesson in what she called ‘bee yard etiquette.’ She reminded me that the world was really one bee yard, and the same rules work fine in both places. Don’t be afraid, as no life-loving bee wants to sting you. Still, don’t be an idiot; wear long sleeves and pants. Don’t swat. Don’t even think about swatting… act like you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t. Above all, send the bees love. Every little thing wants to be loved.”

Rehana Franklin

Categories: Feature

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