"To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee."
Bees in the D and The Garden Detroit
During the summer of 2016, when Brian Peterson, owner of Bees in the D, came in contact with The Garden Detroit, he quickly became a friend. Brian always keeps an eye open for places to house healthy bee hives, and when he visited our two projects – The Garden and Detroit Abloom – and saw the abundance and variety of organic flowering plants, he proposed to establish hives on our properties. We graciously accepted because we LOVE bees (it seems that every one of our board members wants to learn about bee keeping) and have always wanted to support the declining honey bee population. Our partnership with Bees in the D is a perfect fit, or as Tom would say “God's divine arrangement.”
More about Brian
Brian has taught 5th grade at Musson Elementary in Rochester Hills for the past 18 years and holds a Masters and a Specialist degree in Educational Leadership Administration from Oakland University. Besides being an Adjunct Professor at Oakland University and a Guest Services Ambassador for the Detroit Pistons, he's also the President of the Michigan Science Teacher’s Association Board, Oakland University’s School of Education and Human Services Resource Development Board and the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative Board.
In 2012, President Barack Obama personally honored Brian by giving him the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Brian was also a recipient of the Michigan Science Teacher of the Year Award (2011) and the Humanex Excellence in Teaching Award (2015).
During the summer months, Brian is an avid gardener, beekeeper and works for the State of Michigan as a Camp Licensing Consultant. Brian lives in downtown Detroit with his husband Brian, who also helps him with beekeeping.
Bees in the D
To find out more about Bees in the D, please visit their website – www.beesinthed.com.
Bees in the D Mission Statement:
Bees in the D is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to create a cooperative effort between residents, schools, organizations, and businesses in the city of Detroit to contribute to both the health of honey bee colonies and the education of their importance to our environment.
Brian, in brief, is dedicated to educating and empowering students of all ages to take action to help struggling pollinator populations. He has experienced that when students see bees up close, curiosity sparks, fear fades, and gardens and rooftops become ecological playgrounds. In a way, Brian can be seen to be pollinating minds through environmental education. In his words, “I would like to enable Detroit to become a national leader in the conservation of pollinators and promotion of urban beekeeping.”
Why Honey Bees?
About four thousand bee species pollinate the flowers of North America. But even considering the pollination by other insects, birds, bats and other creatures, many specialists believe that no other pollinator has the degree of positive impact on environmental pollination as the honey bee, because of its critical combination of numbers, scope and depth of floral visits.
There are many reasons to keep bees. Aside from helping the environment, there is honey production, the production of beeswax and other hive products, and the opportunity to learn about the intricate social and hive behavior of bee's. As Brian often exalts, “Bees are one of the most amazing creatures on Earth!”
What is Flower Pollen and Nectar?
The single most important reason honey bees visit flowers is to find nutritious food for themselves and their larvae. Flowers produce pollen and nectar to draw pollinating animals, hold their attention, and keep them coming back for more. Pollen grains, which are microscopic dust-like male sex cells that are usually colored yellow or orange, contain from 5% to 60% of protein, all of the essential amino acids, diverse lipids, and antioxidants that bees need.
Nectar is the sweet but watery high energy substance secreted from glands located near the base of the petals of most flowers. Nectar, while an important fuel food, is not as critical for bees as the pollen that they obtain from flowers. They can't live without pollen nor feed their young without pollen. Whereas the adults of most flower-visiting insects seek food only for themselves, honey bees bring pollen back to the hive, where the protein-rich grains feed them and also provide nourishment to their developing brood. They use flattened scraper hairs on their front legs to transfer floral oils to mats of thick scrub brush-like hairs on their back legs. When they fly home, they mix the floral oils they've collected with pollen, creating a nutritious “bee-bread” for their hungry larvae.
Honey bees turn the nectar into the sugary “fossil fuel” we know as honey, which can be saved for the future. During cold winters, as well as periods of inclement weather, honey bees visit their waxen cupboards to reclaim this stored energy. One of the sweetest things about the honey that honey bees produce, is that they usually produce more than what they need.
What is Pollination?
Bees and flowers have a long-term relationship based on millions of years of co-evolution. Plants have adapted a multitude of ways to attract certain types of pollinating insects to their flowers, including the use of color, shape and fragrances. To reach the low-lying pools of nectar that most plants manufacture, bees have to brush up against the flowers stamens, causing pollen to stick to them – ready to be transmitted to the next flower they visit. Pollination occurs when foraging bees move the pollen from male to female parts of flowers, resulting in seed set.
Pollen grains are covered with an oily coating that makes them stick together, so that they cling to their pollinators. Some plants have light-weight pollen that can be transferred by wind, but many have heavier pollen that must be transferred by animals, including birds and bats, but primarily bees.
Honey may be the human race's oldest sweet. Many cultures exploit wild colonies for food while others have developed beekeeping practices where humans provide the bees with housing and food and, in exchange, the bees pollinate plants and provide surplus honey. Whereas solitary and semi-social bees gather only enough nectar to ensure their offspring survive to reproduce, it's the honey bee's nature to hoard surplus pollen and honey, something that makes them unique among other bees.
How You Can be Part of the Honey Bee Solution
Plant for Pollinators
Planting a pollinator garden helps honeybees and other insects immensely. Bees rely on nectar and pollen from nearby flowers for their survival. When flowers are scarce, bees can starve. By planting a pollinator garden, you're ensuring that bees have a source of food year round - just be sure your garden is pesticide free. There are over 300 identified nectar and pollen producing plants in the US and Canada, so you have plenty to choose from. The Garden Detroit cultivates some of the most desirable plants for honey bees and other pollinating insects, so that we can make them available to fellow bee lovers and bee keepers.
Unless you have particular bee allergies, don't be afraid of attracting pollinators to your property. The "bees" that give most people trouble — yellow jackets, wasps and hornets — aren't true bees. They're relatives. Besides, they're carnivores and won't be attracted to your plants. If even handfuls of people each planted a few plants for bees, it would have a profound impact on bee colony health and beekeeping success within our communities.
Get your hive on.
Keeping your own hive is not only a great hobby, but also a way to raise healthy honeybees and ensure that the plants and crops in your surrounding area are being pollinated. The backyard or rooftop beekeeper has a more productive garden as well as the added benefit of harvesting honey in the fall. If you’re interested in starting your own hive or having Bees in the D set up a hive on your property, please contact Brian for more information.
GO PESTICIDE FREE and ORGANIC
Honeybees feed on the flowers from nearby gardens, crops and ornamental plants, so it's vital that these not be coated in substances that could weaken the bee populations. This means gardening and farming without the use of pesticides.
Pesticides are harmful to humans and worse for bees. The chemicals and pest control treatments used on lawns and gardens weaken bees, and are especially damaging if applied to flowers in full bloom. Research shows that most pesticides linger in the nectar and pollen of flowers, where bees are most likely to come into contact with them. If these treatments don't kill the bees outright, they weaken their immune systems and make them more susceptible to disease and infestation by pests.
Chemical-sprayed lawns are dangerous to the bees. There are more chemicals in the form of fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides applied to lawns than any other plant in the USA, even when compared to corn and soy beans. And remember that bees forage for food over an area of one to two miles from their hives. Over the years, Tom has often asked local homeowners who use chemicals on their lawns if they would go organic if it worked just as well, and everyone has said “yes.” Therefore, we believe there's an opportunity to eventually create an organic lawn and garden fertilization and pest-free service, so the residents of Jefferson Chalmers can work towards having their neighborhood become a chemical-free safe haven for all forms of life, including bees.
Look for labels that say "grown without pesticides" at your local store, or visit a local farmer's market and ensure that the products you buy are bee-friendly. Buying local and organic is a great way to support the bees and your community.
Swarming is a natural process that occurs when colonies of honey bees have outgrown their hive. If you see a swarm, contact Brian who will try to relocate them to a safer new home. Honeybees in a swarm are very gentle and present very little danger, but can be made aggressive if disturbed or sprayed with water. Just leave them alone and wait for Brian to arrive. Because only one out of six new honey bee swarms survive to reach the one year mark, human help significantly increases new colony survival.
By buying raw honey from Bees in the D and other local Detroit beekeepers, you will support their efforts to increase the local bee populations and therefore the environmental health of Detroit, as well as your own health. Unlike pasteurized honey, raw honey comes straight from the hive and is unheated, unpasteurized and undiluted, which means it retains all the antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and delicious flavor.
By buying only local raw honey, you help keep yourself and your local community healthy. Please visit the Bees in the D website to make a donation and to keep abreast of their events.