One Fort Hays State University student club suited up Monday afternoon before heading outside to work in the brisk wind.
But they weren’t dressing for the weather — members of the FHSU Bee Club met on the far east edge of campus to establish the school’s second honeybee hive. The first hive was introduced in 2016 to help pollinate the nearby Victor E. Garden.
The club also strives to help raise awareness of how essential bees are for gardening and food production, as well as the many threats facing them, said club president Elissa Jensen.
“Our plan with the club is to eventually get people suited up and seeing what’s actually going on in a hive because it’s pretty amazing to see,” she said.
Jensen, a junior at FHSU, has grown up around bees, as her parents have many bee hives on their family farm near Hays. Despite spending so much time caring for bees, she has never been stung.
Jensen’s father, Mike, helped her and club vice-president Ryan Engel carefully set up the new hive boxes and introduce approximately 15,000 bees to their new home.
Engel, a Hays senior, has taken the opportunity to learn about beekeeping during his time at FHSU.
“I got hooked up with (Mike) as a mentor, and it’s been really beneficial towards learning how to do a hobby like this,” he said.
The colony’s queen was placed inside the new hive, and the other bees will gather around her to establish their hive.
This winter was especially difficult for honeybees, and the FHSU club initially feared their first hive had been lost due to unusual weather patterns, Elissa Jensen said, noting heavy pesticide use and habitat loss are other factors endangering honeybees.
But signs of life were evident in the larger hive Monday as honeybees flew in and out.
“It actually made it through the winter, which is really impressive,” Jensen said.
The bee club has approximately 20 active members, and they check the hives regularly to make sure the bees are thriving. They also expand the hives as the bee population continues to grow — a queen can lay as many as 2,000 eggs per day.
The FHSU student club and Jensen Farms also offer assistance to regional residents who encounter a swarm of bees in the spring or summer months. The bees swarm when in the process of seeking new habitat and should not be disturbed or poisoned.
The Jensens can be reached for assistance by calling their business, Professor’s Classic Sandwich Shop, at (785) 301-2431. Bees often begin to swarm in early April.
“I think last year we caught maybe 10 swarms,” Jensen said. “It’s really all around Hays. There’s bee hives in trees we don’t know about.”