Two years ago, Eamon McCarthy Earls asked his neighbors in Franklin to teach him everything they knew about beekeeping. Howard and Sandy Crawford, who own the Akin-Bak Farm there, had been beekeeping for almost 50 years and happily invited Earls to join them when their new hive would arrive in the spring.
When Earls, a history and geology major, arrived at the University of Massachusetts, he decided to continue his interest in beekeeping, and sought out an organization to join. Unable to find one, the freshman created the first ever UMass Beekeeping Club.
“Back when it was an agricultural college, they used to have beekeeping as one of the things,” Earls said. “And plus, there’s still a lot of agricultural stuff here. I figured that there would be a lot of interest in beekeeping.”
With the help of microbiology professor John Burand, Earls organized the club’s first meeting – which included about a dozen people – on Nov. 15. At the meeting, Earls began organizing the group and brainstorming different types of events that would interest the club.
The club hopes to work with bees from hives already on campus, like the one on top of the Textbook Annex, which is run by the entomology department. Earls also plans to contact beekeepers in the Amherst area to see if they would be willing to let the club help take care of their bees.
But the club will have to wait until spring to start beekeeping. During the winter, bees clump into a ball and shiver to generate enough heat to survive, and disturbing a hive during the winter could destroy it.
Since there are only two weeks left in the semester, Earls and the Beekeeping Club are looking towards next semester to begin organizing events. Earls suggested that some events would cater to future beekeepers, while others would cater to people who are merely interested in learning more about bees.
A more immediate goal for the club is obtaining a sponsor or source of funding for these events. Earls mentioned several possibilities, including the collection of membership dues, becoming a registered student organization or aligning the club with a department – such as the Stockbridge School or the biology department – that could provide a small budget. Earls also said that beekeeping organizations in western Massachusetts might be able to help the club with supplies and equipment.
“I’m hoping that this year we will get it off the ground and grow it, and continue to grow it from here on,” Earls said “I’d like to think that bees and beekeeping are things that interest a lot of people, and I’m hoping that the club will cater to all levels of interest: people who want to become beekeepers, whether hobby or professional, and people who just think bees and honey are awesome.”
The next meeting of the UMass Beekeeping Club will be at the end of January when the spring semester begins.
Patrick Hoff can be reached at email@example.com.