Berks bees subject of student’s independent study

During the month of April, Science major Cassandra Darnell can be found setting up her honey bee boxes at Penn State Berks. For Darnell, the boxes are part of her ongoing independent study she is completing as part of her degree on the bees of Berks campus. The bees will also provide benefits to the campus as pollinators.

Over the coming months, Darnell will conduct an observational study of the bees of the campus and collect data on pollen variation, honey production, and how well the bees survive in relation to similar apiaries in other areas. She explains that she wants to study the bees on campus because Berks campus is located in a somewhat rural area but it is also has urban aspects, and currently there is a lot of interest in urban bee keeping.

Darnell works with Italian honey bees, Apis mellifera ligustica, which she explains are the ?standard? honey bees. She states that she likes to work with this subspecies because the bees are not as aggressive.

During the weekend of April 16 and 17, Darnell will bring two bee boxes with established colonies, each approximately 50,000 strong, to campus. Later this month, she will bring two more colonies, which she will receive from a supplier in Georgia through mail order; she will install the two 10,000-member packages in two new bee boxes. Then she will continue to maintain the boxes and collect data over the spring and summer months.

When asked how she got involved in beekeeping, Darnell said that her father actually asked her to do it with him. ?My dad was listening to a radio program, and they had a home-and-garden show where they were interviewing a woman who kept beehives in the City of Reading in her backyard. My dad asked me if I wanted to try beekeeping with him and I said ?sure.??

?Over the past five years, it has been a most fascinating hobby,? she proclaims.

In addition to being a returning adult student taking courses part-time at Penn State Berks, Darnell is a full-time stay-at-home mom to three children and a member of the Lehigh Valley Beekeepers Association, the Pennsylvania Beekeepers Association, and the Eastern Apicultural Society.