beekeeping

Penn students are raising bees right near campus. | Courtesy of University of Pennsylvanian Beekeeping Club

Penn students head over to Penn Park to enjoy its athletic and recreational facilities, but in reality, they miss the true gem that’s housed in the park. Tucked away in a corner next to the tennis courts stands a wooden hexagonal apiary — or bee yard — proudly run by the Penn Beekeeping Club.

Founded by 2016 College graduate Danica Fine and current College juniors Rebecca Composto and Lucas Bolno, the Penn Beekeeping Club is busy at work this semester with the new bees that were installed in April. The club aims to foster awareness on campus about the ecological significance of honeybees and the proper way to care for the tiny but mighty warriors. 

“Bees are great pollinators; they are good for the environment, and they are a fun way to engage people with nature,” Composto said.

Fine first had the idea to start a beekeeping club when she was a freshman, but it took two years for the idea to actually take off. 

While Composto didn’t have any beekeeping experience, her co-founders had plenty of experience — Fine came from a beekeeping family, and Bolno had beekeeping experience in high school. However, the Penn Beekeeping Club had a lot more planning to do before it could actually get the bees on campus.

For a year and a half, the club existed but did not have actual bees. So the club applied for and ultimately won the Green Fund Grant through the Green Campus Partnership to fund the hive. But there was also the issue of location. 

“Originally, we went through all these different locations. It was a really long process of just emailing and emailing. [The Green Campus Partnership] told us we were going to house the bees at the BioPond and then the roof of Newman Center, and then eventually we ended up here at Penn Park, and they built us a beautiful hexagonal enclosure,” Bolno said.

Now, the club hopes to have students visit the hive, train members to take care of the bees and spread interest in bees on campus. It seems like it has already succeeded in doing so: The club has over 300 people on its listserv and has just held two information sessions for this semester. 

“I really love bees. I also find them really aesthetically pleasing,” said College freshman Ella Serpell, who is interested in joining the club.

The Penn Beekeeping Club has more in store than just promoting sustainability. The club hopes to be able to extract honey from the hives and sell small quantities of it next summer once the hives are established enough. 

“It’s really interesting to observe and to be a part of such a complex social animal colony," Bolno said. "There can be up to 120,000 bees in one hive. That’s a real population of social organisms using complex communication systems that you’re taking care of, and that’s something really interesting and beautiful to watch."

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