Beevo Beekeeping Society creates buzz about sustainable beekeeping on campus

Bethany Vodicka, Life & Arts General Reporter

While scores of students stroll down Speedway on their way to class, Sireen Kenana makes her way over to a secluded corner of the street to tend to a hive of bees. In this environment, surrounded by a plethora of plants and a myriad of black and yellow, Kenana and the Beevo Beekeeping Society feel at home.

“You can read up on something, listen to a podcast (or watch) a documentary, but seeing something first hand is a whole new learning experience,” education junior Kenana said. 

Beevo Beekeeping Society, a student-led organization, strives to increase public awareness about the importance of bees and their place in the environment. Their hives, with thousands of bees, serve as one of the unique tools the group uses to educate members of the community, providing them a glimpse into the world of urban beekeeping. 

“People normally don’t have any beekeeping experience,” said Dessie Tien, president of Beevo Beekeeping Society. “Being able to provide that is something I think is really rewarding and unique to our organization.”

The group has two traditional top-bar hives, box-like structures with pieces of wood that hang on top. In their enclosures, the UT bees call a canopy of greenery behind the Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Building home. There, the group performs weekly hive checks and invites members of the UT community to be a part of the experience. 

“First the hive instructor will lay out the suit and gloves and have everybody introduce themselves,” nutrition senior Tien said. “We will go through a safety procedure, light the smoker and set an intention for the hive and why (we) are going in — whether that’s for fun, looking for honey stores, or ensuring there are no pests.”

While the group visits the hives mostly for checks and education, this week they will continue the sweet and sticky process of honey harvesting. 

Brandon Fehrenkamp, an Austin beekeeper, UT alum and group mentor, got involved in the group in 2015. He said he loves to share the unique role that honey plays in the beekeeping niche.

“Bees are kind of like the poster child for insects,” said Fehrenkamp. “People are like, ‘Oh, they are really cool, and we like honey,’ so they are interested in seeing them hands-on. That’s when they really get their foot in the door.”

The group sells the honey online and on campus, and all proceeds go toward funding hive maintenance and activities. The honey hype serves as a special part of the group’s efforts to promote sustainability. 

Inspired by his grandpa’s beekeeping, philosophy junior Aiden Mullhagen jumped on the Beevo Beekeeping Society bandwagon this past semester, eager to continue his exploration of small-scale urban beekeeping.

“It’s important that we raise the bees in environments where they are safe from pesticides and pollution,” Mollhagen said. “Small-scale urban beekeeping is a huge part of that, and that’s what Beevo facilitates.”

Even outside of the hives, the group diligently shares the buzz for the bees. As part of their commitment to the environment and sustainability initiatives, they’re also working on a new pollinator garden on campus.

“Our larger challenge is helping people to bridge the gap between, ‘I’m interested in bees and beekeeping,’ to, ‘I’m interested in sustainability, environmentalism, pollination and education,’” Tien said. “That’s what our club’s all about.”