A Plight of Pollinators

The Marquette University Pollinators are creating a buzz on campus.

Emma Schmierer, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences and president-elect of the MU Pollinators, says the club is working on building its organization by gaining members and engaging Marquette students. 

“Right now, we’re really trying to get our foundations and try to focus in on what we’re trying to accomplish here,” Schmierer says, adding that most of the events the organization does on campus help out its parent organization, BeeVangelists, run out of Redeemer Lutheran Church on 19th St. and Wisconsin Ave. 

The Pollinators club hosts events for students like honey tastings and candle and lip balm making at Redeemer
Lutheran Church.

Schmierer says the organization helps Charlie Koenen, executive director of BeeVangelists and MU Pollinators Club adviser, care for the bees. There are four beehives on Redeemer Lutheran
Church’s rooftop.

Koenen says the BeeVangelists also have partnerships with nursing homes, churches, backyards, golf courses and country clubs in the Milwaukee area who host beehives, such as the Westmoor Country Club and Sisters of St. Francis.

“Even though we have the hives on campus, they go out all throughout the city and they help everyone,” Schmierer says, adding that the bees are making our planet healthy. “We’re helping other people become aware of their issues and (we’re) trying to promote (them) to … become beekeepers.”

Schmierer says in the last decade, bee populations declined due to many factors, such as viruses entering the hives during the winter and changing weather patterns. 

Koenen says the decline in bee populations means less biodiversity and less food abundance, leading to fewer humans and animals living on the planet.

According to Beeinformed.org, there is nearly a 45 percent loss of managed bee colonies in the 2015-’16 data. The acceptable percentage loss of bee colonies is about 15 percent for the study.

“The issue with the bees is the issue with us,” Koenen says. “The big deal is that most people are aware that the pollinator population is in decline, … and has been in a steep decline for a long time.”

Koenen says arguably the largest cause of pollinator death is large-scale monoculture agriculture in the United States. He says in addition to the pesticide and fertilizers used on crops, bees are essentially force-fed one source of nutrients.

“When we release them in the city, they can pick and choose a little bit more what they have,” Koenen says. “By hosting beehives in the city, we’re giving them the best chance of finding diverse and abundant bloom.”

Koenen thinks the primary goal of addressing the bee issue is having students take better action.

“It’s this information that we want to pass onto the students and pass onto the community so that they can make better decisions,” Koenen says. “Whether it’s understanding the food in the store and as it becomes scarce and expensive and why that’s happening (and) how (they) can go about it, (or) whether they make choices in the voter booth.”

Koenen says the MU Pollinators club is continuing to develop activities to engage students about the “plight of the pollinators.” He hopes students will take an active role in hosting beehives and bringing in guest speakers to talk about what they’re doing to help
the bees.

“The whole focus of Marquette is trying to do better for others (and) one of the simplest ways we can do that is with the bees,” Schmierer says.