CARLINVILLE - Blackburn College’s Bee Program has received a $200 gift from the Carlinville Lions Club. Bees play an essential role in the ecosystem and Blackburn has led the way in the region supporting pollinators’ critical work and serving as a beekeeping resource point. Lions Club President Harry Pollitt and a group of Lions invited Blackburn student Dade Bradley and Biology Department Chair Dr. James Bray to share information about the important sustainability efforts at the College. At the end of the meeting, Pollitt surprised the pair with the gift.
Blackburn College has a lengthy history with pollinators and pollination plants, dating back to the late 1800s when entomologist and professor Charles Robertson identified hundreds of unknown insect and plant species and documented their ecological relationship. The current Blackburn Bee Program launched in 2016 when the College was forced to remove a natural beehive from a tree near Lumpkin Learning Commons. Instead of exterminating it, Bray connected with Arvin Pierce, a local bee expert, to safely transfer the hive into a bee box and the first official hive on campus. As of today, the program currently has 15 active hives on campus, maintains eight more at Solomon Creek Farm, a private nature preserve in Illinois, and two period-correct hives at Lincoln’s Home Natural Historic Site in Springfield.
Bradley, a junior environmental biology major, has been involved with the Bee Program since his freshman year through Blackburn's unique student-led work program. Students are responsible for cleaning and maintenance, capturing swarms, splitting hives, collecting and analyzing data, and harvesting honey. Throughout the year, they relocate feral bees and in the fall, insulate the hives to prepare for the upcoming winter. Beekeeping has become more than an on-campus responsibility for Bradley - he became a certified beekeeper and now maintains his own personal hives.
Bray said when the group met they discussed experiments they are presently doing with the bees and future plans for the program which could include radio-tracking and pesticide or herbicide issues. He stated, “It was a great discussion and the donation was an added bonus. Community support like this helps fund the program first and foremost to ensure that we can keep doing what we are doing and possibly expand with greater student interest.”
About Blackburn College
Founded in 1837, Blackburn College is a four-year, Presbyterian-related, co-educational liberal arts college located in Carlinville, IL. One of only ten federally-recognized Work Colleges, Blackburn has the only program in the nation fully managed by students. Balancing academic rigor and experiential learning, each student at Blackburn gains tangible experience and develops critical skills by contributing to their community, all while building a resume and earning their degree. U.S. News & World Report has recognized Blackburn College as one of the top Liberal Arts Colleges in the Nation for Social Mobility in their Best Colleges lists for 2020, 2021, and 2022. The Center for Education & the Workforce at Georgetown University ranked Blackburn as a top performer for Earnings-Price Return - 209% (#1 in IL, #10 in the U.S.) and Net Price (#1 in IL; #11 in the U.S.). The Washington Monthly twice ranked Blackburn as the best baccalaureate college in Illinois.