Campus Crops: Senior Capstone Leads to Sweet Legacy

Campus Crops: Senior Capstone Leads to Sweet Legacy

By Jennifer Cisney

Environmental Science major Katie Riley ’24 is fascinated by bees. So much so, this past year, she embarked on a journey to become a beekeeper.

“I am drawn to beekeeping because I am amazed at how such a tiny creature can have such a large impact on its ecosystem and the world around it,” she said. By serving as pollinators and creating habitats and food for other organisms, bees are considered a keystone species.

Working with thousands of buzzing creatures with stingers can be intimidating. Katie began her beekeeping quest by arming herself with knowledge. She took online courses and worked with local beekeepers. Virtually, she became familiar with bee life cycles, hive components, and disease and pest prevention. Through real-life experiences, she learned how to use a hive tool, identify the three different kinds of bees in a hive, start a smoker, and watch the bees interact with one another. Katie says she learned the most through her hands-on activities, but the online lessons were valuable, setting her up to successfully shadow veteran beekeepers.

Katie’s beekeeping adventure was one of dedication, learning, and sweet rewards. And she was able to use her passion as the focus of her senior capstone project. Her path began with choosing and building her own hive, selecting and installing the new bees and queen, conducting hive checks, treating her bees for mites, harvesting honey, and then preparing the hive for winter. Katie kept a log of her brood status at each hive check and recorded her experiences and insights to hopefully help others on their path to becoming a beekeeper.

Fulton Farm is home to Katie’s hive. So, her research and passion for bees will live on, past her graduation this spring. The hive is a welcome gift to the farm, helping its ecosystem thrive today and into the future. A sweet legacy indeed.

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