Two UMass Amherst Gardens Win ‘Bee Spaces’ Awards

Deval Patrick and Stephen Herbert
Former Gov. Deval Patrick presents Bee Spaces award to Stephen Herbert, professor in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture
bee spaces plague
Bee Spaces Garden Award plague designed by Shelburne Falls potter Molly Cantor

AMHERST, Mass. – Two gardens on the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus recently won “Bee Spaces Garden Awards” at the Greenfield-based Langstroth Bee Fest in recognition that the gardens help the little pollinators by providing food for foraging bees in flowers and plants, a reliable water source and that they use no toxins.

The two gardens, among five that received awards, are the Pollinator Garden at the Agricultural Learning Center’s Wysocki Farm, begun and managed by Stephen Herbert with support from the Massachusetts Grange, and the student-initiated and managed Franklin Permaculture Garden at Franklin Dining Commons. Winners received a plaque designed and made by Shelburne Falls potter Molly Cantor.

Former Gov. Deval Patrick, a beekeeper himself, was on hand at the June 3 festival to give out the first annual Langstroth Bee Spaces Awards, sponsored by the Franklin-Hampshire Beekeepers Association andthe Second Congregational Church of Greenfield. The church was once home to the “father of American beekeeping,” the Rev. Lorenzo L. Langstroth, sixth pastor of the church.

The festival recognizes his rich contributions to beekeeping and pollinator agriculture, says bee fest co-chair Sandy Thomas, who is also community marketing specialist for UMass Amherst’s Center for Agriculture, Food and Environment.

She says goals of the award and the festival include calling attention to pollinators’ needs and encouraging homeowners, farms, businesses and schools in the region to create more pollinator gardens to support healthy bees, butterflies and other pollinators. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Pollinator Partnership, 4,000 native bee species in the US pollinate about 75 percent of fruits, nuts and vegetables.

Festival organizers say that for children, a goal was “to show them not to fear bees and to teach the importance of bees as pollinators,” Thomas says. And for adults, the event featured lectures by experts including UMass Amherst professor Lynn Adler, who studies pollination and plant-insect interaction,and adjunct research professor and ecologist Susannah Lerman, with state beekeeper Kim Skyrm and Kim Flottum, the editor of Bee Culture magazine.

Thomas recalls that the “Second Congregational Church in Greenfield holds the distinction of having had Lorenzo L. Langstroth as their sixth pastor in the1840s.” He developed the modern beehive, a moveable-frame hive that replaced the inefficient conical-shaped skep that forced a beekeeper to destroy the hive to harvest honey.

Langstroth’s “brilliant discovery” that bees need precisely five-eighths of an inch of space to move around in and clean the inside of the hive “revolutionized beekeeping and agriculture forever,” she adds. The minister lived in Greenfield for 12 years while researching bees and writing the classic manual, “The Hive and The Honeybee,” now in its 42nd printing.

About 95 percent of the world’s beekeepers still use a Langstroth hive, Thomas says, and Langstroth’s rich contributions earned him the title of “The Father of American Beekeeping.”

Bee Fest organizers point out that bees worldwide are in crisis because of several factors and serious population declines have been reported in both managed and wild bee colonies due to pesticide use, loss of habitat, climate change and disease. Experts have estimated that 40 to 50 percent of bee colonies collapsed in the United States alone in recent years, putting the food supply at serious risk, they note.