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Green River campus welcomes honeybee colonies

Najera teaching
Staff members use a magnifying glass to watch the queen bee lay eggs.

Ten thousand honeybees now consider Green River College's lush campus their home.

Biology instructor Danny Najera received the Green River Foundation's Faculty Excellence grant to bring one beehive on-campus, tucked away in the woods off the Foundation trail. He keeps a second satellite hive off-campus in Kent and plans to bring a third hive to campus for viewing outside of the SC building.

Aside from producing delicious local honey, the beehives serve a triad of purposes at Green River:

- Education. Maintaining beehives gives students in the classroom a firsthand look at animals in their natural environment. "Working with the bees will give student experiences that they can't google answers to," Najera explains.

- Outreach. Already, Najera has represented Green River at the Cougar Mountain Zoo and the Seattle Design Center. He plans on bringing his Green River bee program to many more outreach programs this coming summer and school year.

- Scientific research. Najera will be compiling research on colony health, which will help local beekeepers. He will also examine cognition and bee communication in an effort to find out more about bee decision making.

Why bees? According to Najera, "no other organism is as capable at linking the entire ecosystem together as a series of identifiable connections that depend on the component parts."

Bee hive
The on-campus hive has nine frames.

Both of Najera's Biology 100 classes will be spending class time interacting with the beehives, and he plans to include this real-life nature experiment into as much of his coursework as possible. He explains, "this provides students with personal experience not usually offered in a college classroom."

Faculty and staff can also access the beehives. Every Monday at 1 p.m., Najera conducts a tour from the SC lobby to the bee yard where he opens the hives, checks on the health and progress of the bees, and teaches his audience the basics of bee behavior and beekeeping. Email Najera at DNajera@greenriver.edu or call ext. 4815 to sign up for a tour.