Berks' bees subject of student’s independent study

READING, Pa. — During the month of April, science major Cassandra Darnell can be found setting up her honey bee boxes at Penn State Berks. For Darnell, the boxes are part of an ongoing independent study she is completing for her degree about the bees on the Berks campus. The bees will also provide benefits to the campus as pollinators.

Over the coming months, Darnell will conduct an observational study of the bees and collect data on pollen variation, honey production, and how well they survive in relation to similar apiaries — places where bees and beehives are kept — in other areas. She explains that she wants to study the bees on campus because Penn State Berks is located in a somewhat rural area but also has urban aspects, and currently there is a lot of interest in urban beekeeping.

Darnell works with Italian honeybees, Apis mellifera ligustica, which she explains are the “standard” honeybees. She states that she likes to work with this subspecies because the bees are not as aggressive.

During the weekend of April 16-17, Darnell will bring two bee boxes with established colonies, each approximately 50,000 strong, to campus. Later this month, she will bring two more colonies, which she will receive from a supplier in Georgia through mail order; she will install the two 10,000-member packages in two new bee boxes. Then she will continue to maintain the boxes and collect data over the spring and summer months.

When asked how she got involved in beekeeping, Darnell said that her father actually asked her to do it with him. “My dad was listening to a radio program, and they had a home and garden show where they were interviewing a woman who kept beehives in the city of Reading in her backyard. My dad asked me if I wanted to try beekeeping with him and I said ‘sure.’”

“Over the past five years, it has been a most fascinating hobby,” she said.

In addition to being a returning adult student taking courses part time at Penn State Berks, Darnell is a full-time stay-at-home mom to three children and a member of the Lehigh Valley Beekeepers Association, the Pennsylvania Beekeepers Association, and the Eastern Apicultural Society. 

Last Updated April 22, 2016