In the campus garden, on the side of the Kralingse Zoom, next to Park Noord and the tennis courts, you will find the bee hives of Rinske Kreukniet. Rinske is a beekeeper on the EUR campus. In the high season, this is the home of some 60,000 bees. How did Rinske become a beekeeper at the EUR? And why are bees so important?
Rinske started as a beekeeper 11 years ago, since 2012 she has hives at Trompenburg Gardens and Arboretum and since 2019 also at the EUR. The run-up to becoming a beekeeper at the EUR was actually very long. Rinske and her colleague Angelique from 'Immeke' were 'flown in' every now and then to talk about the possibilities. In the meantime, a plan for a campus garden with edible plants, Edible EUR, was born. When Bob ter Haar of Edible EUR and Rinske started working together, things suddenly went fast. "In November 2018 we got in touch with each other and in April 2019 the campus garden opened." Almost every Friday, students are now gardening in the garden.
The plan to start beekeeping courses went into the fridge due to corona. Now in 2022 there has been a try-out with a beekeeping course.
"I always wear a hat. If a bee gets in your hair, it can't get out that easily with the hooks on the legs."
"The high season of the bees is from May to midsummer, after that they turn to winter stock. In the high season I drive by every day, very briefly, on the way, and once a week I make sure I can really be there to work with the bees." Meanwhile, a few students have taken a beekeeping course and can help Rinske.
"The bees teach us that the economy is not only about money, but also about the value of the ecosystem"
Education at schools
Rinske is an art teacher at a Rotterdam secondary school. She also works with her company 'Bee the Change' on education about bees.
"I would love to make schools more aware of bees. Good education is necessary". This is also how Bee the Change came into being, Rinske explains. "Bees are the best learning tool to show how you can also deal with this world." She regularly introduces school classes to the bees on the EUR site. She shows them the inside of a hive and explains how bees live and how they contribute to our nutrition.
She also makes beehives with high school adolescents. "That's wonderful work because you get to talk about how the bees build their house so that everything fits in, the pollen, the honey, the eggs and larvae and of course the nurseries of the new queens." They also sell the hives, so at an early age they are introduced to entrepreneurship.
Bees and other insects have enormous economic value. Without them, there would hardly be any harvest. "The bees teach us that the economy is not only about money, but also about the value of the ecosystem. By organising great diversity, we are seeking a natural balance between plants and animals. Sustainable and diverse without artificial additives. We believe that a healthy diverse ecosystem and productivity can go very well together."
"Instead of talking about 'too many bees', it is better to talk about too little biodiversity"
Recently, there have been reports in the news about too many bees in the city.
"The bees in question are often kept by people for the sake of honey. Keeping bees for honey is really something else! You need a lot of flowers for the honey for the people and the bees also have to collect their winter supply. The bees on campus are therefore allowed to keep their own honey for the winter.
The conversation should be about biodiversity, Rinske thinks. "Bees show us that there is a problem. Instead of talking about too many bees, it would be better to talk about too little biodiversity."
It is not for nothing that the hives on campus are located in the campus garden. "You can't see the two separately either, it's all about biodiversity." Together with Bob from Edible EUR, Rinske is working on more biodiversity on campus and the survival of the bee. Education is also important. Bob and Rinske regularly give guided tours to groups, like recently during the Professional Services Day for support staff of the EUR.
What would she like for the future? "A solar wax melter, then we can make candles with beeswax, a residual product that we already have. Or lip balm, for example. I'd really like to work on that too."