The Marine Science Outreach course, taught by Professor of Biology Sandra Gilchrist, celebrated Earth Day by holding a local honey tasting event in Hamilton “Ham” Center last Wednesday, April 22. The honey was supplied by Suncoast Beekeepers Association members Kevin Lausman, the master beekeeper at University of Florida, and Randy Lewis, a beekeeper in Sarasota. The raw wildflower honey ranged from dark to light depending on the season during which it was harvested.
Students in the Marine Science Outreach class gave back to the bees in turn with a simple but sustainable craft. The class provided a paste of soaked, recycled Catalyst papers with which students could make “plantable paper” by mixing in a layer of wildflower seeds and letting the creations dry before placing them anywhere in the ground.
“The class is made up of a seminar and a lab with four students,” said thesis student Abigail Oakes, one of the class’s participants. “We focus on ways to educate the public on science, mostly marine or environmental, and attend outreach events in the community.”
Providing outreach events to the community is one of the requirements for the course. After brainstorming – keeping in mind the interests of the school’s population and the issue of bee populations dying off – the class put together the honeytasting event and pinned it on Earth Day.
Bee populations around the world have been declining drastically for various reasons including the Varroa mite, loss of habitat, and a number of pesticides. Scientists recently found another potential reason for colony collapse disorder – a phenomenon in which worker bees abandon the hive, often leading to the failure of the colony. The study, which focused on the effects of a neonicotinoid class of insecticides, found that bees might be addicted to the nicotine-like elements in these “green” chemicals. Since the insecticide does not trigger honeybees’ neurons used to detect dangerous chemicals, the bees keep returning to the sprayed flowers and have begun to actually prefer these plants.
While researchers have concluded that these insecticides are no longer safe to use, they still remain on many flowers and crops. Despite this, little deeds such as planting pollinator seeds in “plantable paper” provides natural wildflowers for local bee populations and helps to mitigate the effects of colony collapse disorder.