Central College News

Central’s “Bee” Students

Featured: Central’s “Bee” Students

December 20, 2019

By Brandon Rosas ’20

Last spring, Central junior Kirsten Buniak ’21 hopped in her car and drove to Sully, Iowa, to pick up a heavy box with mesh on the side. She set the package gently in her car, careful not to disturb its contents. Inside were hundreds of workers and even a queen: everything Buniak needed to set up a new colony.

Buniak is a member of Central’s Beekeeping Club, which celebrates its anniversary even as bees nationwide face extinction. “Bees are in the news because pollinators are super important,” says club advisor and Associate Professor of Biology Paulina Mena, for whom the tiny insects are a passion. “They’re responsible for most of our food, especially the more nutritious food.”

The club was founded by popular request after Mena led a honey harvest for students during the 2018 Intersections Teach-In. “Honeybees are very charismatic,” she says.

Like real bees, however, the club has faced challenges to its survival. “You’ve probably heard of Colony Collapse Disorder, where the bees just go out and never come back?” Mena says. “That’s what happened to our hive in April 2019. Fortunately, I was able to get a new one online, which Kirsten picked up, so we’re back in business.”

This fall, Beekeeping Club’s six to seven regular members met about once a week to inspect the bees – “You feel like an astronaut because you’re wearing this big, white suit,” Buniak says – and harvest honey at the end of the season. “Harvesting isn’t a lot of work,” Mena says. “It’s just sticky.”

Sticky and rewarding. “We each get to take a little Mason jar of honey for ourselves,” Buniak says. “The honey tastes amazing, and when we get it from our bees, we support our own club and get a direct benefit from it.”

The Beekeeping Club complements Central’s commitment to sustainability. In spring 2018, the college was named Iowa’s first Bee Campus USA in recognition of its support for pollinators, thanks to the efforts of dedicated environmental science students Molly Luzbetak ’18 and Madison Friedrich ’18.

Beekeeping Club t-shirt“People nowadays say, ‘Save the bees,’ but we’re actually doing something about it,” Buniak says. “We’re learning how to keep bees safe and create an environment that promotes sustainability, and we’re passing that knowledge on to the community. It’s better than just getting a shirt.”

Of course, the Beekeeping Club has shirts, too, designed by member Abigail Lowry ’22. “They’re cute little yellow Central College shirts that say, ‘We’ll bee keeping it real,’” Buniak says. The club already has sold nearly $400 worth.

Sounds pretty sweet to me.


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About the Writer/Photographer

Brandon Rosas ’20Hi, my name is Brandon Rosas ’20, and I majored in communication studies with a minor in art at Central College. During my time at Central, I enjoyed drawing, watching salsa dancing videos, studying in Maytag Student Center and working as a student-writer for the Central Communications Office. I now work as PR and Communications Coordinator at Musco Sports Lighting, and I am a regular contributor to Art of the West magazine. In my free time, I enjoy reading, painting and spending time with family