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Detroit Hives Beekeepers Vow To ‘Work Hard, Stay Bumble’

Detroit may be well-known for its abandoned homes and vacant lots, but the city may be soon known for something a bit sweeter and buzzier: beekeeping.

Detroit Hives, a nonprofit started last year by Timothy Paule and Nicole Lindsay, is buying up vacant properties and transforming them into urban bee farms. They started their venture after realizing they could combine the medicinal power of honey and improve local neighborhoods at once.

As Paule told the Huffington Post: “These properties are left abandoned and serve as a dumping ground in most cases. The area can be a breeding ground for environmental hazards, which creates a stigma around the city.”

The pair bought their first vacant piece of land with help from Detroit Land Bank Authority, which helps to redevelop abandoned properties in the city. According to the organization’s director of inventory, the authority works with nonprofits and faith-based organizations to bring the groups’ visions to life and improve Detroit one lot at a time.

In addition to raising honeybees and selling their honey, Detroit Hives hosts farm tours to the public and travels to Detroit schools to speak with young students. Improving public perception of bees has been an interesting challenge, according to Paule.

“It was a little hard at first because most high-schoolers are afraid of bees or they really don’t care,” Paule explained to the Huffington Post. “So I had to find a unique way to introduce bees to them. One thing they found intriguing is how each honeybee had a unique job.”

Currently, Detroit Hives owns just the one farm, but they want to expand this year. They rely on grants, donations, and crowdfunding to serve the community. Approximately 17% of crowdfunding donations are made on mobile devices — which seems appropriate for this venture, given the buzzing nature of both bees and phones set to vibrate mode. No matter how they receive the support, the pair is incredibly grateful that they can give back to the community.

Bees are basically the masters of giving back. They are responsible for pollinating more than $15 million a year in crops throughout the United States. That means that most of the food we consume relies on bees in one way or another. But their plight has become serious, and it’s efforts like these that might revitalize the population.

However, according to research conducted in the U.K., the rise in urban beekeeping may not be entirely good news. Cambridge University claims that the rise in amateur beekeepers is actually leading to a population decline in wild bees. They’ve evidently found it hard to gather enough nectar and pollen to sustain their colonies. A study co-author even ventured to say that the prevalent “save the honeybee” campaigns end up harming wildlife. But the British Beekeepers Association has spoken out against this claim, noting the point of view as “unhelpful” and that it wrongly places the blame on honeybees (and their keepers).

In the U.S., and in Detroit specifically, it seems like more people are happy to see an increase in these honey-making insects. Not only do local vendors get the chance to use the honey in their wares, like sauces and handcrafted beers, but community members are thrilled to see a bee farm where an informal dump once stood. Considering that plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to degrade in a conventional landfill, Detroit Hives seem to be improving the look of the neighborhood and the health of the environment overall.

It’s no wonder that the Detroit Hives team has chosen “Work Hard, Stay Bumble” as their tagline. As Paule explained to HuffPost: “We’re hustlers, innovators and thinkers. Bees work really hard, and they’re humble. In Detroit, you have to work hard and be humble. It’ll take you far.”

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