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Former Marine: Showcasing Sustainability Through Beekeeping

July 20, 2017

Honey, Honey Bees

For former Marine Roy Saenz, beekeeping has become a part of his everyday life. Each Tuesday in South Bend, Indiana, he dons his old desert camo, some gloves, and his bee veil—the outfit he uses for tending—and he spends much of his day from there caring for roughly 55,000 honeybees. Starting with the local Potawatomi Park’s conservatory, Saenz and a marketing student, Amanda Harlow, walk among the gardens to two beehives part of their weekly check-ins. They refill the honeybees’ sugar water if necessary and then look for the hive’s queen on the frames.

"We check to make sure she's healthy and alive and…to see if she's laying eggs and how well," Saenz informed. "We look at the general health of the hive, any signs of disease, and also for hive beetles, mites, or wood roaches." The pair also check the state of the bees’ honeycomb and look for any larvae. From there, they drive to South Bend’s campus of Indiana University to inspect two more colonies behind the college’s library, starting the inspection process from the beginning.

The Start of Beekeeping

In total, Saenz currently has seven hives along with three nuclei—his "baby" hives—at home. After buying several abandoned properties but having little to do on them, Saenz attended a beekeeping presentation. "I thought: why not do it in urban areas?" Saenz remembered. "We have lots of clover and very diverse stuff for them to eat and not as many pesticides in the city. I like doing my part for the environment, and the honey is a plus. I drink a lot of tea, and having natural honey to put in it is great." A professor at Judd Leighton Economics and Business School, Saenz also claims to use beekeeping for overcoming childhood fears of anything flying or buzzing.

The bees in the conservatory and campus hives total to about 55,000, with the conservatory hosting around 25,000 and the campus around 30,000. By Saenz’s estimates, a healthy colony should have between 25,000 and 50,000 honeybees, especially during summer. With his campus hives remaining in their healthy state, they have become a part of Indiana University’s sustainability showcase, which demonstrates through various projects on ten city lots how it’s possible to live sustainably in South Bend.


Part of why bees are essential for sustainability comes down to their pollinating abilities, per Krista Bailey, who directs IUSB’s Sustainable Future Center. "We couldn't eat if we didn't have bees," she said. She also stated that the goal of this sustainability program is to eventually be certified as a Bee Campus via Bee Campus USA.

As part of the program, Saenz plans to keep his bees on the IUSB campus while he is able and that he also wants to teach a beekeeping class soon. "They're neat little creatures," Saenz said. "Every day is a surprise. You never know what you're going to get when you come out here, never know what you're going to find."

Copyright: bernardbodo / 123RF Stock Photo

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