United Eductors Insights Blog: Beekeeping on Campus
12/9/2015 4:04:15 PM
Many higher education institutions and K-12 schools are interested in establishing apiaries—places housing hives for honeybees—on campus. Keeping bees can be beneficial and rewarding, but a successful experience requires advance planning.
General Beekeeping Guidance
Schools that have no prior experience with apiaries should start by exploring general guidance for first-time beekeepers. Programs at the University of Georgia and the University of Missouri offer advice on starting bee colonies, including suggestions about the preferred number, construction, location, and care of hives.
Registration and Inspection of Hives
Most states require beekeepers, both hobbyists and those raising bees for commercial gain, to register their apiaries, but registration is often low cost or free. Many states also require or allow for periodic inspections by an apiarist or entomologist to ensure the hives and related equipment are free of infectious or contagious diseases and pests. This is especially important because the U.S. honeybee population has suffered significant losses due to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and other problems since 2006. Schools should check with their state’s department of agriculture for registration or inspection requirements; most states have associations for beekeepers or honey producers that may be helpful. In addition, schools should check with their local jurisdictions to determine if any county or city requirements—such as zoning ordinances—affect keeping bees on campus.
Bee Stings: Prevention and Response
Potential allergies to bee venom mean that schools with apiaries should plan carefully to prevent bee stings and also establish emergency response protocols if they occur. Bees rarely sting unless they are disturbed, so apiaries should be located away from heavily trafficked areas, and clear signage should be posted warning students, employees, and visitors about their presence. Schools should also consider requiring individuals working with the bees to wear appropriate protective gear and erecting barriers to prevent unauthorized people from approaching the hives.
Because stings may still occur despite proper precautions, schools should post emergency protocols to follow if anyone who suffers a sting is allergic, which in severe cases can result in anaphylactic shock. The National Institutes for Health and the Mayo Clinic describe common symptoms of and treatment for this allergic reaction. Epinephrine, which is often used to treat anaphylaxis, requires a prescription, and individuals with known allergies should carry their own kits or know how to quickly access one.
To comply with state or local requirements, many public K-12 schools stock epinephrine, usually EpiPens, that school nurses and other trained employees can administer to students suffering from anaphylactic shock caused by bee strings, food, or other allergens. (For example, see Fairfax County (VA) Public Schools’ Recognition and Treatment of Anaphylaxis in the School Setting). A school that plans to implement this type of policy should consult with counsel and ensure that its medication dispersal policy covers storage and use of the epinephrine, including:
- Who is authorized to administer it and under what conditions
- Who is responsible for monitoring security and expiration date of the drug
- Communicating the policy to the campus community
American Beekeeping Federation Resources
American Honey Producers Association Resources
Bee Research Labs, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension System
Apiary Inspectors of America
EduRisk Checklist for Administering Medications in K-12 Schools
By Hillary Pettegrew, Senior Risk Management Counsel