Graphic design students responded to exterminators killing off honey bees near Shirk Hall earlier this month with an immersive awareness campaign.
Under the supervision of Graphic Design Professor Julie Dhondt, the bee awareness project went public last Thursday.
Dhondt said she believes the exterminations were a result of fear towards yellow jackets, insects often placed in the same category as honey bees.
“When the cold weather starts, the yellow jackets will rob from the honey bees, because they’re geared up to get stored up for the winter,” she said. “So their presence was annoying and frightening to a lot of people.”
Once facilities staff began responding to the yellow jacket problem, Dhondt requested they speak with Roger Graham, a veteran beekeeper and founder of Graham’s Bee Works in Morgantown.
“I saw the exterminators here. Twice,” Dhondt said. “The second time I told them that I had talked to facilities and they were still trying to figure out things, and they said, ‘Oh, well we’re not going to do anything yet—we don’t know where they are.’ So I went on with my class.”
During that same class, Dhondt and students saw an exterminator climbing a tree through the window.
Dhondt, a five-season beekeeper, watched the exterminator spray down a hive alongside her students.
“I was very upset,” she said. “But, it was a good teaching moment because I got to show my students the little dead bodies of honey bees and yellow jackets and their differences.”
Students in Dhondt’s class said the moment pushed them to take action.
“After seeing that, it kind of served as our motivation,” junior Raheim Whitlow said. “This building pretty much became our own beehive.”
From there, students in Graphic Design II and III went to work. They collaborated for several weeks, during which each used skills learned in the class to design posters, buttons and stencils for chalk art outside key areas of campus. Dhondt also put together a display case in the first floor of the Johnson Center for Fine Arts.
“One of the easiest moments was coming up with our slogans,” senior Cali Wetli said. “Julie was up with the board, and pretty soon the board filled up with names.”
Other students developed social media strategies to share the message, while some created stencils with the slogans to use on campus sidewalks.
“One of the hardest parts was cutting stencils,” Whitlow said. “But our hard work paid off and brought a great amount of awareness to this campus.”
Dhondt said she invited Graham to visit the class as a guest speaker so students could learn about the importance of the insect from a local professional.
Soon after the project launched and chalk art spread from Shirk and across Dame Mall, Dhondt was approached by freshman Cara Preston. Preston shares a similar passion to Dhondt and wants to create a permanent beekeeping club, Dhondt said.
While the project was completed on campus, Dhondt soon learned of a larger issue from Graham.
“In Franklin city proper, which I know we’re right in the middle of, there are no beehives allowed,” she said. “So, we’ll see what we can do. We’ll see.”
Corrections: Junior Elliott Parker is cutting the “Buzz Off!” stencil in the photo. Cali Wetli is a senior.