Growing up in a southwest Chicago suburb didn’t provide much of an agricultural background for Megan Tyminski. Instead, she gained her passion for nature and pollinators from her grandparents.
Her grandfather, or papa, as Tyminski refers to him, would take her on hikes, quizzing her on the identification of plants as they went along. Tyminski’s other set of grandparents also provided her with the chance to learn more about agriculture and the environment. They owned a garden plot, and when she would visit them in Indiana, she would have to wake up and do chores before getting to hang out on the farm.
However, it was something else that brought her attention to bees. In high school, Tyminski was a part of youth in government. Each year, students involved would write a bill. Her senior year the bill happened to be about bees. While doing research for the project, Tyminski’s interest was piqued.
“I just become super interested in them [honey bees], and I figured the best way to learn about them would be to take care of them and see how they interact with people and their ecosystem,” Tyminski said.
Today, Tyminski attends the University of Missouri as a science and agricultural journalism major with a minor in sustainable agriculture. One of the things she brought with her from her hometown of Oswego, Illinois, was a goal to bring beehives to MU’s campus.
“I came to college knowing I wanted to start a club and that I wanted to find an organization that would actually help me get a volunteer base and gain resources for that,” Tyminski said. “Sustain Mizzou is volunteer and student run, so it was a good fit.”
Sustain Mizzou describes its mission as, “…to promote a sustainable way of life at the University of Missouri-Columbia through education, cooperation, and local action regarding the environment.”
The organization offers students a wide array of volunteer opportunities, ranging from stream cleanups to food drives, that pair locally grown food and local people struggling with food insecurity.
The search for partners and sponsors to start a beekeeping group on campus began when Tyminski was a freshman.
“I have vivid memories of walking around campus, still not knowing where all my classes were, trying to go to involvement fairs to find an organization that I could pitch it to,” Tyminski said.
With persistence and passion, Tyminski was successful. She recalls setting up multiple meetings, calling and emailing others to check up on the process, and going through other university hoops. Mizzou Botanic Garden sponsored two hives, bees, as well as other materials and equipment. Tyminski was also awarded a grant to start her beekeeping project on campus.
“I feel like that was the end goal,” Tyminski said. “To finally lift up a frame and see bees on it.”
Now, one can find the results of her efforts in a beehive located in the Eckles Hall Butterfly Garden. Originally there were two hives, but one collapsed. Tyminski described the collapse of the hive as heartbreaking, but a reality.
In fact, according to beeinformed.org, beekeepers in the U.S. lost 44 percent of honey bee colonies from April of 2015 to April of 2016.
“The goals have evolved, obviously, as I have been learning more about pollinators,” Tyminski said. “Honey bees get headlines, I like to say that, but obviously we have like 452 native bee species in Missouri that are declining and need help.”
Not only is Tyminski an advocate for honey bees, but also other pollinators that don’t receive as much publicity. These pollinators include other native bees, butterflies, birds and even bats.
Tyminski is looking to add more hives in the upcoming year and continues to set goals for Sustain Mizzou Beekeeping. Once the bees make enough honey to be collected from the hive, Tyminski’s goal is to sell it at the Mizzou Farmer’s Market or to possibly partner with Buck’s Ice Cream, an MU student run ice cream shop, to create a new flavor. It all depends on how much honey the bees make.
A.L. Gustin Golf Course has also asked for Tyminski’s help in setting up beehives on its course located just west of Faurot Field. The golf course participates in wildlife habitat management, water conservation and environmentally friendly turf management practices, and was the first college golf course in the U.S. certified by Audubon International. The golf course has picked a reliable partner to help achieve beehives on their course.
“Megan is one of the most dedicated, hard working people I’ve ever met,” said Erin Smith, secretary of Sustain Mizzou. “She joined Sustain Mizzou to start her beekeeping project and she did it.”
Other Sustain Mizzou teammates of Tyminski also think highly of her.
“She is probably the biggest go getter,” said Kevin Tosie, treasurer of Sustain Mizzou. “I mean she started the beekeeping project when she was a freshman, so that was pretty impressive.”
Tyminski’s passion for pollinators and nature will continue on after graduation.
“Pollinators are so fascinating and they work in the background a lot, and a lot of things that we end up doing to our planet effect them, which will also in turn effect us,” Tyminski said. “I really do think that they are an indicator species of things that are going wrong and how we treat our planet.”
Tyminski plans to keep doing what she enjoys, working to make the world a more sustainable place after graduation. She wants to work in communication for an organization that cares about the environment.