The Dubuque Franciscans have 50,000 houseguests: a hive of bees.
Sister Karla Kloft has always been fascinated by bees and was concerned about what was happening to the bee population.
“I was surprised last year working in the garden that I’d find bumble bees but not honey bees,” said Sister Karla. I wanted to do my part because of their plight. I thought if I can help them out in any way I would.”
According to the National Resources Defense Council, 42% of bee colonies collapsed in the United States alone in 2015. About one-third of the human diet comes from insect-pollinated plants, and the honeybee is responsible for 80 percent of the pollination, which means our food supply is at risk, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture,
So Sister Karla submitted a proposal to the Leadership Team about housing bees at Mount St. Francis and they approved it.
In January 2017, Sister Karla took a six-week beekeeping course at Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) to learn the basics of bees and beekeeping.
“They taught us everything–we learned how to take care of them, how to see diseases and how to treat diseases, and how to protect the bees from mites.”
The teacher of the course offered the 33 students in the class the option to purchase bees at cost. The sisters’ 10,000 bees arrived at the end of April and the hive has now grown five times that size estimates Sister Karla.
The sisters held a naming contest at MSFC for the queen bee and “Beatrice” was the winner.
“The sisters are enjoying the bees and want to know when we’ll get honey,” said Sister Karla. “That probably won’t happen until the end of August or September.”
But honey is only a sweet bonus to helping the bee population.
“I’m just a bee steward. I’m here to help them do a very good job of helping themselves,” said Sister Karla.
Sister Karla checks on the bees every 7-10 days with the help of Sister Theresa Jungers to make sure the queen is doing well and that she’s laying eggs. She also ensures that mites aren’t a threat to the bees.
For her the bees bear resemblance to her own “hive.”
“I think it’s a very spiritual experience taking care of the bees. They really live in community,” she said. “They’re a super organism–no one complains, everyone is doing their job for the betterment of the whole hive–they just do it. They really do live in community.”
Taking care of the bee community is a job Sister Karla finds joy in doing.
“When you hold a frame in front of you that’s heavy with honey it’s a thing of beauty.”
Sisters Theresa Jungers (right) and Karla Kloft work with the bees at Mount St. Francis Center.