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Published: 19 May, 2020 Updated: 26 Jun, 2020, 10:58

Umeå University’s staff tripled overnight

NEWS Another 150,000 diligent and persistent employees move in - on Campus Bigården. In conjunction with the World Bee Day on May 20, Umeå University, in collaboration with Akademiska Hus, inaugurated three beehives with their queens Vilhelmina, Dorotea and Fredrika and launches a website that covers all surrounding activities.

Text: Ingrid Söderbergh

Vice chancellor Hans Adolfsson thinks it is fun that it is now time for an official opening and that the university can welcome so many new “diligent and indispensable staff”.

“About 80 percent of all plants rely on pollinators in different ways. Therefore, pollinating insects such as honey bees play an important role in our nature. Putting up hives on the campus of Umeå University, I therefore see as a contribution to increased biodiversity and part of the university's sustainability work. Campus Bigården will also serve as a place for education and research on the Nordic bee” says Hans Adolfsson, Vice chancellor of Umeå University.

The Nordic bee, Apis mellifera mellifera, is the original bee breed in central and northern Europe and has been here since the ice age. Due to commercial beekeeping, it has been displaced by imported bee breeds. Since the 1980s, the NordBi project has been trying to re-establish the Nordic bee in the Nordic region and beyond.

With the establishment of beehives and surrounding activities Umeå University wants to support the endangered bee breed and other important pollinators, thus creating a pollinator friendly campus, but there are other reasons too. The ambition is to carry out innovative research in beekeeping and pollination ecology, to enable dissemination of knowledge to students and the general public, and also to produce eco-friendly by-products from beekeeping such as honey, pollen and wax.

Actually, the start took place already in the winter of 2016, when the enthusiast Natuschka Lee privately participated in a beekeeping course. She saw the fantastic research potential and has since worked hard to build this enterprise at Umeå University from scratch. The project is partly funded through the Trees and Crops for the Future project at the Umeå Plant Science Centre and via the Swedish Agricultural Agency's beekeeping programme and two different INTERREG projects. From some of the most experienced beekeepers in the Umeå region, including Anders Berg, she has received practical good advice.

The property owner Akademiska Hus has arranged for eight hives in a protected location behind the Wallenberg laboratory at Umeå University.

“That the hives are finally in place feels wonderful! It has been a long wait as there is a lack of Nordic bees, the ones we have chosen to support, but now we can also help give this bee new opportunities for establishment. Once we have gained momentum in the beekeeping, we will also be able to produce bee communities for others interested both inside and outside the campus”, says Natuschka Lee, researcher at the Department of Ecology and Environmental Science at Umeå University.

The three queen bees and their 150,000 companions will produce at least 30 kilos of honey annually. It will be collected and marketed as a natural honey from Northern Sweden, without additives and of the highest quality.
“Visitors to our website Campus Bigården will, like on “slow tv” about moose, be able to follow the bees' work and life and their lives in the hives via our bee camera, but also get data on instant honey production from a scale that we will mount under one of the hives” says Natuschka Lee.

An important goal of the project is to educate the public about the insect's situation, especially honey bees and other pollinators and their plants. Here lies a whole treasure of possibilities, says Natuschka Lee.

“Together with my colleagues, both beekeepers and researchers, we plan a range of activities, from research projects, citizen science and bee safari, walks along an insect trail, lectures, construction of designed insect hotels, to a new encyclopedia of plants for all pollinators and bi-photo exhibitions. Anyone interested in seeing what we find should check our website now and then” she says.

The project is conducted in collaboration between researchers and teachers at Umeå University and Swedish University of Agricultural Science in Umeå, Umeå Municipality and the County Administrative Board of Västerbotten.

Read more about Campus Bigården

 

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Natuschka Lee
Research fellow
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