The Voice: Summer 2003
Enthusiastic beekeepers get their way
By: Sally Jongsma
A group of persistent students got through to Dr. Duane Bajema this semester.
Theyd been asking him for almost a year to offer a course on
beekeeping. But because offering special topics courses has been put on temporary hold
due to the need to staff a new First-Term Seminar, the course was
not approved. A little more nudgingmaybe even naggingconvinced Bajema that these students were
so interested in learning that hed make time to work with them through
an independent studyor even just as interested participants. Hes getting help from Career
Develoment Director Ron Rynders, who also keeps bees.
Seventeen bee hives are now set up at the Agriculture Stewardship Center, painted
and labeled with the name of each beekeeper.
I was surprised at the response, says Bajema, who put a note in
the campus newsletter to alert the campus community to the new course offering.
Participants in the beekeeping course represent a variety of majors. Some are taking
the class as an individual study; some are simply there to learn. Some
of them arent even students. Two alums and two faculty members are also
learning the ropes of beekeeping and looking forward to a pot of honey
Anastasha Kamps is one of the people who kept pestering Bajema about a
I wanted to explore an area of creation that seems so down-to-earth but
also so allusive, she says. Dordt doesn't normally offer a course on apiculture
but I had heard both Dr. Bajema and Ron Rynders talk about their
bees. I didn't know when Id ever have such an opportune time to
learn from such good teachers about a subject they are both very obviously
intrigued by and experienced in.
Dr. Sherri Lantinga and her husband, Nick, an adjunct professor at Dordt, say
theyre taking the beekeeping class for a couple of reasons.
Ive been trying to find ways to help my kids better understand where
our food comes from; we looked into keeping chickens, but thats hard to
do in town with the noise and smells. This beekeeping opportunity not only
allows us to learn where honey comes from but will help us teach
the boys about responsibility for caring for Gods world. Were also doing this
because my husband grew up with bees in Michigan; Nicks now-deceased grandpa taught
his dad how to raise them, and Nick associates beekeeping with his good
memories of his grandpa.
Bajema, who knows the abcs as well as the challenges of beekeeping, tries
to be realistic with the students about whats involved. In addition to requiring
that each of them get stung (so they know exactly what theyre in
for and that its not so bad after alland to make sure no
one is violently allergic to the stings), he stresses the responsibility they have
taken on in caring for these creatures of Gods world. Like the child
who gets excited about a new pet but whose interest languishes, they need
to accept the bees as an ongoing responsibility. He has also asked them
to pay their way. He figures it will cost about $60 to stock
and care for each hive for the season. That makes students think before
they sign on.
Ive been surprised by the amount of things that go into this process:
the different kinds of equipment, the necessary understanding of bee life, and the
things that can go wrong (skunks stealing honey, mice eating the wax cell
foundations, foulbrood disease, etc.). Im looking forward to learning more about how they
raise their young, collect pollen, and produce enough honey for themselves and for
us, says Lantinga.
Kamps agrees. I am looking forward to watching my hive grow and develop
honey. I am looking forward to searching for the queen bee, to being
stung (Ive never been stung before), and expending lots of energy to finally
produce a full honeypot (I hope!).
The group meets on Friday afternoons, after the weeks classes are over for
them and for Bajema. And even though he says it makes him busyand
will keep him busy over the summer while he cares for the hives
of students who will be gonehe admits that its lots of fun.
Theyre so curious about learning. And its made them think about many related
thingsfrom figuring out the costs for the undertaking to when the trees and
flowers begin producing the nectar their bees need, Bajema says.