Photo courtesy of GT Honeybees

The Tech Urban Honey Bee Project is one of the most innovative and unique programs of its kind in the U.S. Headed by Jennifer Leavey, the initiative aims to not only further our own understanding of honeybee habits and the effect of urban expansion on them, but also to foster a sense of responsibility and promote sustainable development of cities.

Housed in the Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons, the numerous hives here serve as the focal point of the program. Students and faculty work together in maintaining the hives and ensuring the health and growth of the bees. In doing so, they are able to closely study various behaviors and cause/effect relationships within bee systems.

“We are interested in how habitat fragmentation affects genetic diversity in urban honeybee colonies,” Leavey said. “How pollution affects honeybees and where bees find forage in the city.”

In fact, Tech was recently certified as only the second Bee Campus USA affiliate in the country: a program designed to utilize the strengths of research institutions to better the state of bees across the country.

“We are very proud to be the second certified Bee Campus USA in the nation,” Leavey said. “This designation greatly complements the efforts of the students, faculty, and staff currently working on environmental and sustainability issues … we believe the certification will provide the institution with an import platform to facilitate wider dialogue regarding pollinator awareness.”

With this certification, Tech will serve as an invaluable resource for initiatives and programs across the country that are hoping to contribute to the honeybee’s rehabilitation. Additionally, Tech plans on developing a Campus Pollinator Habitat Plan that will include plans on including native pollinator-friendly plants. This will be implemented in conjunction with a least toxic integrated pest management plan: a tool that will be made publicly available instructing how to properly ensure healthy landscapes.

As the world worries over decreasing bee populations, the answers to such questions will undoubtedly prove important in years to come. The results from the new venture seem to be promising. Improvements in regards to pest pressure and metal contamination are promising and exemplify just how game changing this project can be in the future.

“Through this integration of the diverse set of minds represented on the Bee Campus USA committee, Georgia Tech will develop innovative and sustainable practices that can be applied right here on campus and in similar environments around the world,” Leavey said.

Bee Campus USA is a subsidiary of Bee City USA, an organization dedicated to addressing the recent drops in bee populations across the United States. Created in 2015 with the partnership of Southern Oregon University, Bee Campus USA is “designed to marshal the strengths of college and other educational campuses for the benefit of pollinators.”

To become a Bee Campus, institutions must maintain a Bee Campus USA Committee, sponsor various bee-friendly events, as well as educate the general population on pollinator-related issues through courses, workshops and signage near hives and pollinator-friendly landscaping.

Tech’s Urban Honeybee Project was created in an effort to increase the scientific community’s understanding of how urbanization affects honeybeees and other pollinators vital to human food systems. Its mission for education, interdisciplinary research and collaborative innovation “incorporates the spirit and goals of Georgia Tech’s strategic plan,” according to the program’s webpage, which also hosts a 24-hour BeeCam and other educational resources for Tech students and non-students alike.