What’s all the buzz about? The nonprofit group Bees in the D has created a new home for dozens of honey bees right in our backyard. They’re housed in hand-painted hives, decorated by our students, inside a special wooden enclosure.
Now that the grass is green and the weather is warmer, we’re excited to host four honey bee hives in our outdoor space. They’ll not only bring the opportunity to (hopefully) taste some freshly harvested honey, but the bees will give our students the chance to learn larger lessons about the natural world right in front of their eyes.
“It’s for the kids to learn about the skills of beekeeping and overcome their fears and learn about the importance of bees to our environment and food system,” says Brian Peterson, a beekeeper and founder of Bees in the D. “You can do lessons on economics, lessons on team building.”
Bees in the D is a Detroit-based nonprofit that enlists residents, businesses and organizations to host hives as a way to strengthen the health of honey bee colonies and illustrate the important role bees play as pollinators in our natural environment. It’s especially important in the wake of Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon of declining bee populations that has alarmed scientists, farmers and environmentalists over the past decade.
Last summer, Bees in the D had 29 active hives under its management, Peterson says. It’s projecting more than 100 this year, including sites like General Motors’ headquarters at the Renaissance Center, the Foundation Hotel and the Cobo Center roof.
“Downtown Boxing Gym students will learn about the bees, including the different parts of the hive and what goes on in each,” Peterson says. “We’re super excited because we love the boxing gym’s mission, we love that these students have other options after school to learn about themselves, fitness, and teamwork. Beekeeping is just another option for them.”
Bees in the D will do the actual beekeeping, though Peterson said extra bee suits will be available for students or staff who sign waivers and have the permission of parents or guardians. Though they’re famous for their ability to sting, Peterson says honey bees are actually very docile creatures who are only defensive when agitated or disturbed.
“I won’t let anyone go into a hive with me until I’ve checked to see that bees are calm in temperament,” he says.
Peterson brings impressive credentials to his work keeping bees. He was named Michigan Science Teacher of the Year in 2011 (he teaches fifth grade at Musson Elementary in Rochester Hills) and received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching in 2012. He says bees are responsible for pollinating up to two-thirds of all the food we eat and demonstrate incredible levels of role-playing and teamwork.
“Your brain can’t understand how such a small animal is so complex and so organized,” he says. “We humans could learn a lot from honey bees.”