As part of God’s creation, Fr. Paul Jarvis believes people have a responsibility to be good stewards of the environment. Presently, a vital member of that environment is in trouble.
Colony Collapse Disorder has caused the mysterious decline of honeybees in the United States. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that beekeepers have been losing 30 percent of their bee colonies each year.
“Students, parishioners and the wider community really need to know how critical the problem is … and how critically important it is for all of us to address it,” Jarvis said. “Imagine if more and more churches had beehives! I think we need to more than imagine it, now. We need to act. Our food supply and state and local economy depend on it.”
To help in its own small way, St. Joseph’s Church has introduced a beehive to their church property.
Protected by a fence, the hive sits near the church’s Matthew 25 Garden. The garden, which was started several years ago, provides food to the poor while offering learning opportunities to students at the school.
Beekeeper and parishioner Craig Francois donated the hive to the church. He said bringing the hive to St. Joseph is a win win. The hive offers the honeybee colony a safe home near natural prairie and a garden that offers a good food source. In return, the bees pollinate garden plants, helping provide more and better harvests.
“The honey is a sweet benefit,” added Francois.
Several years ago, Francois took a class at the University of Minnesota on beekeeping. He took the class to learn more about Colony Collapse Disorder.
Francois said the “immensely informative“ class inspired him to start his own hives on his family farm in Iowa. He’s been keeping bees for a number of years now and said the hobby provides him a great amount of joy.
“It kind of consumes you,” said Francois.
Specifically, Francois said the bees provide a glimpse into the majesty of God’s creation.
“They’re doing the work God created them to do and working for the benefit of their community,” said Francois.
Early this summer, Jarvis suggested Francois bring some bees to St. Joseph. After checking with the city and the church’s insurance company, Francois brought a hive to the church campus July 6.
Honeybee hives don’t require much upkeep, said Francois. The only real task is retrieving the honey. A single hive can produce up to 70 pounds of honey a summer.
So far the beehive has been a hit with parishioners. Volunteers working in the Matthew 25 Garden see their new friends daily.
So far the hive is thriving. Francois said the real test will be if the colony survives the winter. Going into the colder months, the hive will be composed of up to 60,000 bees. By the end of winter, that number will decline to about 20,000.
Learning through discovery
The hive will offer an educational tool as well. St. Joseph principal Tom Joseph, who teaches science, said he will incorporate the hive into the science curriculum.
“We will have the kids do heavy thinking and problem solving,” said Joseph.
While there will be learning opportunities for all students, Joseph said second and seventh graders have science sections that include insects.
Kids often fear bees. Jarvis said they hope to teach students that bees are beneficial and, when respected, aren’t dangerous.
Lastly, the students will learn about stewardship. Specifically, Joseph hopes to teach students that small creatures have a big role in our survival.
“It’s really important to care for God’s creation,” added Jarvis.