Helping Pollinators On Your College Campus

Pollinators, especially honey bees, are having a difficult time surviving across the United States. Every winter beekeepers are reporting unsustainable losses of their honey bee hives. There are a number of contributing factors that are making it difficult for honeybees to survive the winter: varroa mites that weaken the immune system of honeybees making them susceptible to disease, pesticides, herbicides, loss of food variety, and other factors. There are reports that the numbers of bumblebees are also in decline across the country.

There are a number of steps that a college student can take to help the plight of pollinators:

  1. Talk with your college officials to see if it's possible to establish a few honey bee hives on college property. This may especially work well if your college or university has an agricultural program. Not only will establishing a few honey bee hives on campus increase the number of pollinators in your area, it may also increase the number of crops your college agricultural program produces. Honey bees will pollinate the flowers of almond trees, cucumbers, apples, strawberries, alfalfa, blackberries, among a long list of other fruits and vegetables.

  2. Supply a clean source of water for your local honey bees. Honey bees use water to cool their hive. If you supply a clean source of water outside your dorm or apartment, you will see honey bees collecting water around the rim of your container. They bring this water back to their hive, and they use it to cool the inside of their hive. The bees will spread the water around the hive, and when they fan the hive by beating their wings, the water evaporates and cools the interior. A simple and efficient way to provide water for your local honey bees is to put up a Bird Bath (not only will you attract birds, you will also have the benefit of helping the honey bees. If you have a bird bath that has a deeper bowl, place some rocks on the bottom of your bird bath to provide the honey bees with a place to stand while they collect the water. Honey bees can not swim, and they will drown if they do not have a good standing platform.

  3. Provide flowering plants that attract pollinators. Plant some flowers in pots outside your dorm room that pollinators like. Flowers that bumblebees particularly like are: comfrey, mint, and lavender. All three of these flowers are very easy to grow in pots, and they require minimal care. In addition to bumblebees loving comfrey, it also has medicinal purposes. The above picture is of a bumblebee on lavender flowers. By placing a few flowers outside your dorm or apartment, it will provide pollinators with a little more variety of food. Comfrey, Lavender, and Mint are easily grown from seeds, making this project very inexpensive.

  4. Place a Hummingbird Feeder outside your window filled with sugar water. You want to find a hummingbird feeder that has shallow drinking holes that both hummingbirds and honey bees can drink from. The honey bees will feed from the feeder by inserting their tongues into the feeder holes. There are certain times of the year that your local pollinators will benefit from having supplemental food provided as the nectar flows are not as high in early spring and late fall. By providing pollinators with sugar water, you will be providing them with a much needed food source during these times.

Here is a simple recipe for making sugar water for your local honey bees:

Bring 8 cups of water to a boil and remove the pot from the heat source.
Immediately after removing the water from the heat source, add 4 pounds of sugar while stirring. The water needs to be very hot to dissolve the 4 pounds of sugar, but you do not want to keep boiling as the sugar may burn. Dissolve the 4 pounds of sugar and let cool. Once the sugar solution has cooled, add to your hummingbird feeder. Walmart is currently selling a 4 pound bag of sugar for $3.02.

By taking one or a few simple steps, you can help your local pollinator population while on college campus. Just watching the honey bees, bumblebees, and hummingbirds will reduce your stress level and bring you enjoyment.


HCook is a college graduate. She loved her college years, and hopes to help other college students make the most of their experience.