Rooftop Bees at Bailey Hall

Overview of the #BaileyBees Project

On April 6th, 2015, two honeybee colonies were introduced onto the southeast side of the Bailey GREENroof. The Bailey Bee Team made history, as this was the first time a honeybee colony was placed on the roof of a residence hall!

Through the Bailey Rooftop Bee Collaboration, our goals are that students will be able to learn and think critically about honeybee colonies and honey production. The Bailey GREENhouse and Urban Farm will provide a safe habitat for honeybees to live and flourish on the Bailey Hall GREENroof, which help educate about the sustainability issue of declining honeybee populations. Michigan State University will benefit from increased opportunity for outreach, research, teaching experiences outside of the classroom, and education to broadly address threats to our bee population. More specifically, unlike any other project at Michigan State, this project contributes to new knowledge and education in urban apiculture and farming and how honeybees contribute to creating a sustainable food system by pollinating surrounding crops as well as providing honey.

Honey bees are one of the most vital species on our planet, and MSU students and faculty have united to help - we are working together to create a safe habitat for honey bees to live and flourish on the Bailey Hall GREENroof! Look up - You can view our bee colonies out on our GREENroof on the southeast side. Soon you will be able to try honey from our hives in the dining halls!

Below are detailed links to a variety of aspects about this project!

Additional FAQs


Why are Bees Important?

  • Bees are the most important pollinators of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and crops that feed us!
  • Pollination is an essential part of producing healthy food.
  • If you want to grow and eat local food, then taking care of your local pollinators is part of the picture.
  • It is a hard time to be a bee – flowerless landscapes make it difficult to find food, while new pests, pathogens, and pesticides are affecting their health.
  • As an ecological community we feel ethically responsible to provide a safe environment where honeybee colonies can thrive!
  • Since World War Two the population of honeybees has decreased by half, while our crop production that relies on honeybees has increased by 300%

  • Bees and flowering plants co-evolved millions of years ago; without flowering plants, we have no pollinators, and without pollinators we have no flowering plants! This includes many of our fruits and vegetables.
  • Honey, an incredible natural sweetener, is the only food that includes all of the substances necessary to sustain life including enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants; and there is currently a market for local raw honey.

Bees Make Great Neighbors!

Honey bees are not naturally aggressive towards humans. They won’t bother you, if you don’t bother them.

Our honeybees don’t want anything to do with us! Their goal is to find flowers and produce enough honey to survive through the winter.

Bees will typically forage up to 4 miles away for food!

Honey bees like to fly out and up to find their food. They will rarely drop down to ground level, except to visit a flower!


I saw a bee, is it from our hives?

honey beePERHAPS. This is a honey bee – If it looked fuzzy and golden colored, it may be one of ours. Our workers are unlikely to bother you - they die when they sting, and only eat nectar and pollen from flowers.

yellow jacketNOPE, not ours - this is a Yellow Jacket and technically not even a bee! They are more aggressive - they can sting multiple times, and are interested in other food sources like your lunch or your soda!


Who Benefits from Bees?

A main component of our bee collaboration is honeybee education! Our RISE bee team students get to be hands-on with the hive and learn how to care for honey bees. They are also building skills in project management, teamwork, risk management, marketing, and communication.

Along with RISE students, other MSU students and classes are allowed to visit our hives! Our colonies are used as a tool to educate our Spartan community about the importance of honeybees in our food systems.


How can I join the Bee Team?

To become involved with the Bee Team visit the MSU Bee Club Facebook at

www.facebook.com/MSUBaileyBees, or contact Sierra Barfield at barfield@msu.edu!


Who is Involved in this Project?

This project is funded by the Office of Campus Sustainability Be Spartan Green Grant, and is a collaboration between students in the RISE program and Dr. Meghan Milbrath from the Michigan Pollinator Initiative at Michigan State University. Dr. Laurie Thorp, Heather Shea Gasser, and Dr. Matt Raven provide RISE program guidance, and Dr. Zachary Huang, Dr. Walter Pett, and Dr. Gabriel Ording provide support from the Entomology department, and the Center of Michigan Beekeeping Club provide mentorship.  Residential Education & Housing Services (REHS) is working with us to assure student safety throughout the project.


Additional FAQs about #BaileyBees

Who is funding this initiative?

The Be Spartan Green Student Project Fund through MSU Sustainability


Who else on campus is involved?

The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, RHA, Horticulture, College of Natural Science, Entomology, IPF, Michigan Pollinator Initiative


Why was is having bees on our greenroof important?

Honeybees are great pollinators, which are crucial to the health of our plants in the Bailey GREENhouse and Urban Farm. Honey bee health is a very real issue in the current agricultural world, and having honeybees on our greenroof offers an opportunity to educate visitors about the importance of bees while enjoying delicious homegrown honey!


Please contact Dr. Laurie Thorp at thorpl@msu.edu or 517-432-4944 to make a donation.


How many bees are on the roof?

On April 6th we introduced 26,000 honeybees to the GREENroof in two separate hives, and as the season continues on their population will grow and can grow up to over 100,000!


How long do honeybees live?

A queen can live from 2-4 years, worker bees (females) during honey production season live about 6 weeks and in the fall/winter can live 6 months, and drones (males) die after mating. But, it is important to think of a whole colony (queen, workers, drones) as one living creature, because without all the bees working as a team, the colony could not survive.


I’m afraid of bees, what can I do to avoid them?

Honeybees are not aggressive towards humans unless they are provoked, so the best thing you can do to avoid the bees is stay calm and do not swat them. They are peaceful creatures that are going about their own business, typically looking for flowers to feed from and pollinate; they aren’t interested in you!


Will the bees get into Bailey Hall?

All of the windows in Bailey Hall have screens on them, so the odds of our honeybees entering the building are slim to none. Bees also forage up to four miles for food each day, looking for flowers to feed from, so they aren’t interested in finding their way into Bailey!


What about people who are allergic to bees? What precautions should they take?

If you are allergic to bees, talk to your doctor, and make sure that you know your risks, and understand care if you have a reaction - including your responsibilities with Epi-pens - know if you should have an Epi-pen, how to use it, and if so - always have your medication with you.

If you are allergic to bees make sure you have an Epi-pen with you at all times. The front desk staff and bee team members are all trained on how to administer Epi-pen medications, but it is your responsibility to have your medication with you.