The 268 graduates in Catawba College's Class of 2015 now have a common buzz word to use when remembering their commencement exercises – BEES, honeybees in particular. These insects, thousands of them that were discovered living in the wall of the Robertson College-Community Center and swarming in the area around that building, caused college officials to reconfigure long-laid commencement plans less than 24 hours before the graduates' big day on May 16th.
According to College officials, concern for the safety of those participating in and attending the commencement exercises was the reason that the planned activities were moved from Keppel Auditorium to the Omwake-Dearborn Chapel. Because the Chapel is a facility with less than half the seating capacity of 1450-seat Keppel Auditorium in the College-Community Center, the two exercises originally scheduled at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. became three, occurring at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m.
Most attending and participating in the ceremony copped a "be positive" attitude and even College President Brien Lewis noted at the May 15th Baccalaureate Service that "a Plan B" was in effect for commencement activities.
Video of honeybees swarming outside the
College-Community Center (Video: Chris Bolick '15)
Catawba students are helping trap and relocate
the bees to a new home.
As Catawba successfully concluded its 2014-2015 academic year with its capstone graduation events, Keppel Auditorium remains off limits and caution tape and warning signs about the bees remain posted nearby. Bee bait boxes are in place on top of Robertson College-Community Center and in some adjacent trees as the College Facilities Department collaborates with local beekeepers to remove and relocate as many live bees as possible in the next several days. College administrators are making plans to remove a portion of the brick façade on the upper level of the College-Community Center which would allow them better and more direct access to the large hive they believe is located in the walls of that building.
Social media comments about the situation were mostly positive with many expressing concern about the safety of the bees. Two Facebook posts included one from Lesley Palmer Pulliam who wrote: "All graduations are special. This one was especially sweet due to the beautiful location! Thx bees! Great job by all!"; and another by 2015 Catawba graduate Danielle Pennington: "We should be compensated in free honey!"