Bee-Themed Study Breaks Highlight Sustainable Food

The Food Literacy Project and the Harvard Undergraduate Beekeepers will provide students with a variety of bee-pollinated foods at a series of Food Future Study Breaks over the next two weeks to raise awareness about the role that bees play in our sustainable food supply.

“The study breaks are a perfect way to disseminate information through delicious food to a large portion of the undergraduate population,” FLP coordinator Louisa Denison said.

Organizers say the study breaks are intended to inform students about a recent unexplained decline in bee populations, a phenomenon which scientists are calling “colony collapse disorder.”

“Despite the fact that [colony collapse disorder] has been getting a lot of media coverage, it is an unknown topic for a lot of people,” Denison said.

A report authored last year by Harvard School of Public Health professor Chensheng A. Lu identified possible causes of the colony collapse disorder. Although scientists have not yet come to a final conclusion regarding the factors contributing to the decline in the bee population decline, Lu’s study focused on the use of insecticides on farms as a potential cause.

According to co-head of the Beekeepers Li E. K. Murphy ’15, maintaining a healthy bee population is critical to developing a sustainable food supply for the future.

"There is a natural connection between bees and food futures," Murphy said.

According an FLP flyer, over one-third of our food supply—including common household foods such as apples, squash, broccoli, and berries—is dependant on the honey bee.

Denison also cited almonds as one of the most dramatic examples of the importance of the honey bee. Eighty-five percent of almonds are grown in California’s Central Valley, all of which are pollinated by honey bees brought in from around the country.

The study breaks will also discuss the more general effects bees have on our food supply. By pollinating food for farm animals, Murphy said bees play an important role in meat and dairy production.

"You can't have breakfast without bees," Murphy said.

Harvard Undergraduate Beekeepers, which was founded last spring, currently has one beehive located on top of Pforzheimer House, but will be installing more hives around campus soon.

“We are by no means experts,” Murphy said, “but we are excited to learn more.”