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Beekeeping group forms at GRCC

Want to learn more about beekeeping? Join a local beekeeping club or attend one of their monthly meetings. (Harry Lynch/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS)

A swarm of “Groupbees” is heading to Grand Rapids Community College as the new beekeeping group plans its first meeting at noon on Wed., July 18 in room 127 of the Applied Technology Center.

The Groupbees, as the group is aptly named, was formed by GRCC IT Customer Support Director Kurt Meinders. An avid beekeeper himself, Meinders wanted to provide a place where bee enthusiasts could meet and share their experiences.

“It’s an interesting hobby of mine, and there’s a few people in the department here that do a little bit of it,” Meinders said. “I actually had a faculty member reach out with a couple questions some while back, and I thought, ‘We’ve been talking about it for a couple years.’ So we just thought, ‘Let’s just start a group and see who’s interested, and we’ll get together and learn from each other and learn from our mistakes.’”

So far, about a dozen faculty and staff members have reached out to Meinders with interest in joining the Groupbees, but the club is not exclusive to GRCC. Meinders believes the group could reach the entire Grand Rapids community.  

“We got a couple people that are not related to the college that are interested in coming in, so who knows what this is going to turn into,” Meinders said.

The group’s first meeting will focus on how much interest there is in maintaining the group, where the Groupbees plan on keeping bees and what direction members feel the group should go.

“We’ll… talk about what it is we want to find out, if we want to make it a more formal organization, if we want to keep it casual and just bring people in to talk to us and share our experiences or do we want to actually form some sort of organization,” Meinders said.

A special guest speaker is also scheduled to attend the first meeting to talk to the newly formed group about beekeeping practices and how to get started with the hobby.

“I have Don Lam from Don Lam Bees coming in,” Meinders said. “He’s just going to… talk about beginning beekeeping and answer any questions we might have.”

It is yet unknown where the group will keep the bees, but Meinders has the ideal place on campus in mind.

“It would be really cool if we could do it at the herb garden on top of the ATC,” he said. “That’d be a great place for a beehive.”

Meinders also has a vision as to where the group could potentially end up.

“Maybe, who knows, we can find someone who can sponsor an observation hive for us or something down the road because those are really great to see,” he said. “Basically, part of the hive is inside the building, and they have access to go outside so you can stand inside the building and watch what’s going on inside the hive.”

The idea sprouted from his own experiences with beekeeping noting his first hive was a topbar beehive with observation windows.

“You get the bees and it’s amazing… to watch them and in a matter of days building all this structure, cone and stuff and be able to open this hive and see it,” he said.

As for the best part about beekeeping, Meinders had this to say:

“It’s not getting stung,” Meinders joked. “It comes with the territory, but some people they just don’t act like they get stung. I don’t know, it’s just something to take your mind off of everything else that’s going on in your life, and you get to watch this amazing colony of bees do their thing and it looks very organized and very intelligent. It’s amazing what they’re doing.”

Grand Rapids is home to a bigger beekeeping group, the Grand Rapids Area Beekeepers, where community members get together once a month from March through October. Residential and urban beekeeping has been on the rise as of late with an increasing amount of interest from the public to keep bees in the city. Meinders is not the only staff member from GRCC to show interest in beekeeping. Joel Frank, the technical operation technician at the ATC building, was pushing his home city of Cedar Springs to allow residential beekeeping.

Anyone with an interest in joining the Groupbees should contact Meinders at kmeinder@grcc.edu before the first meeting on July 18. The club is open to students, staff, faculty and community members.

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