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Explore local bee scene at Saturday’s Tour de Hives

Arianna Auber

The more Tanya Phillips heard about colony collapse disorder, an unsolved malady that’s killing off honey bees at startling levels, the more she wanted to save the ones she could. Since becoming an amateur beekeeper with about 20 hives in her backyard, she’s started up a nonprofit called the Bee Friendly Foundation, removed and relocated bee swarms from around town and now hopes to make a tour of local bee yards like hers an annual event.

Tour de Hives, going from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, showcases the beehives of 11 amateur and professional bee keepers around Austin, Dripping Springs and Georgetown. The tour kicks off at her own home, where throughout the day, activities like honey and mead tasting, an intro to beekeeping class and raffles of beekeeping equipment will take place. From there, people can drive to the other locations armed with a map they’ll receive from Phillips.

Because three of the beehive spots are up in Georgetown – including a community garden and a coffee shop – and another is in Dripping Springs, Phillips doesn’t expect that people will hit all locations (all but her home close their doors to the public at 2 p.m.). But she’s already heard interest from as far away as Belton and San Antonio about the tour, which she said is the first of its kind in Texas.

All proceeds from Tour de Hives (the cost of a ticket is $5) go toward Phillips’ Bee Friendly Foundation that she started up with her husband, Chuck Reburn. The foundation raises awareness about the plight of honey bees – which seem to be dying from a combination of pesticides, mites and having limited crops to pollinate – and pulls together funds for a grant toward scientific research.

It’s a cause Phillips has become passionate about only within the last year, and she thinks it might catch on with other Austinites, too.

“I think especially in Austin, where people are into health and fitness and saving the planet, they’re much more careful about getting involved in things like this,” she said. “Now that CCD is getting so much attention, a lot more of us will look into beekeeping. They have said the answer to saving our bees is not one or two beekeepers with 60,000 beehives but 60,000 people with one beehive.”