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Valdosta State University helps grow bee population
Barry Futch, a Valdosta State University environmental and occupational safety employee, removes and relocates bees to the Bailey Science Center rooftop to keep them safe. - photo by Associated Press

VALDOSTA — Nearly 100,000 bees swarm the rooftop of the Bailey Science Center.

It's a new place of refuge for the bees that have been found across Valdosta State University in unsafe spaces.

The biology/chemistry department and environmental and occupational safety department have teamed up to relocate bees to the Bailey Science Center rooftop to grow their numbers, use them for academic purposes and hopefully do research as to why they're disappearing.

"Bees are very important little animals who are kind of being under attack with global temperature changes and also use of pesticides in our environment," said Ted Uyeno, professor of invertebrate zoology. "They're slowly disappearing."

Bees, common pollinators and producers of honey, are dying off by nearly 40 percent, according to Uyeno.

The loss of bees is a huge problem for humans, who rely on the insect for foods such as strawberries, pecans, melons and almonds.

Because of this, Barry Futch, an environmental and occupational safety employee and a beekeeper of 20 years, is trying to keep the campus' bees alive.

"Any time we get a call about bees, we try not to kill them if at all possible," Futch said. "I've been here 24 years, and we haven't had to kill a bee yet. It has been a good thing to save the bees and keep them going."

The nearly 100,000 bees are sorted in boxes based on where they came from — there are "social equity bees" who were rescued from the Office of Social Equity, and another hive contains bees from Wesley Foundation.

The number marks an increase from two years ago when the biology/chemistry department witnessed a colony collapse disorder event. The number went from about the same amount now to zero.

"During the winter, we had a colony collapse disorder event," Uyeno said. "I came up here one day and found the queen with only about five bees surrounding her. The next day, they were all gone."

Both fellow bee lovers for years, Uyeno and Futch don't just see this as a sanctuary for their favorite insect.

With this many bees, they hope students become involved in learning about bees so VSU can problem-solve their sudden and fast decline.

"On the most basic level, all the students I teach are going to be citizens of our community in the future," Uyeno said. "If they have a chance to vote on some issues that allows us to be progressively more helpful to the bees, then that's a good thing."

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