Inside the UM Beekeepers Club
Not many people are familiar with the word “apiculture,” but for junior Katelynn Pennington, the word denotes a practice she’s been engaged with since childhood. Beekeeping has run in her family since 1964, culminating in a family-run honey business. She is also the president of the UM Beekeepers Club, an organization promoting the study and safe keeping of honeybees, other pollinators, and pollinator-friendly vegetation.
“Honeybees have been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember,” Pennington—a third-generation beekeeper—said, which is why when she heard about the UM Beekeepers at an involvement fair freshman year, she “knew [she] had to join.”
The club was founded in 2018 by Ole Miss alumna Caroline Bailey and Honors College Dean Douglass Sullivan-González. Pennington joined that same year, and served as treasurer before running for president in spring of 2019.
Since then, however, the organization and the bees it cares for have faced some difficulties. Because of pesticides sprayed near the hives at their previous location, “Our colonies were not doing well,” Pennington explained. “And due to the university closing [during COVID], we had to move the colonies back to my family farm to care for them while everything was in lockdown.”
Unfortunately, only one of their hives survived the move. When it came time to return to campus, Pennington’s family business donated two hives to the club in order to keep the practice alive. The Beekeepers were then able to transfer those colonies to the UM Field Station, where club members visit the bees every couple of weeks.
Those members number about twenty-five, and as the group is almost entirely student-run, each one is important. “The club has made me realize that many others out there share a similar interest and desire to bring about awareness and learn more about the topic,” Pennington said.
One person who shares that interest is fellow junior Elliot Neal, who currently serves as treasurer. Pennington encouraged him to join the group, and since, beekeeping has “slowly started to turn into a passion” that he wants to share with others.
“We normally have a few extra seats [to] go inside the hives,” he said, for anyone interested in riding along to see the colonies. “Yes, we get stung, but it’s worth it for us to be able to keep our own bees.”
“Beekeeping is a noble hobby that is an immense help to the environment and some of its most valuable workers, and it’s easier to do than you might think,” Pennington said. “My wish is to be able to make real changes to people’s lives and bring about awareness…across the Oxford community about how important these little creatures are.”
As the University bees will not produce a harvest of honey this year, you can check out Katelyn’s family farm for all your honey needs. Pennington Farms is located in Pearl, Mississippi, and can also be found on the web at https://mississippihoney.com/ .