Nonprofit removes the sting of dying bees

Detroit is being stung by the decline of bees in the city area. Detroit Hives, run by city natives Timothy Paule and Nicole Lindsey, is a nonprofit organization that wants to help bees rebound and flourish by installing honeybee hives in abandoned lots throughout the city.

The group’s mission according to their website is to eliminate blight from the city by using vacant lots for hives, preserve the conservation of honey bees and educate the public on their importance by opening the lots to the general public.

“Some people are planting urban farms, and they’re adding bees to help with the yield,” said Paule in an interview with MSN. “Others are doing their part and placing hives in backyards to help the declining bee population.”

The Detroit Free Press reports that honey bee numbers have been in decline since the 1940s and that hive numbers have fallen from approximately 6 million to 2 million.

Guilford alum and postdoctoral researcher Kaira Wagoner notes what she sees as the reasons for the decrease.

“The major issues contributing to honey bee health declines are parasites and pathogens, mismanagement, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure,” said Wagoner.

She goes onto stress that helping bees become healthy again is critical to the future of food and plants.

“Declining honey bee health has serious implications for agriculture, with crop yields and the availability of a diversity of well-liked fruits and vegetables at stake,” said Wagoner.

Others in the scientific community are also concerned.

“Honeybees are important pollinators,” said Assistant Professor of Biology Megan White. “We have an easy case to make for conserving them. One-third of all the food we eat is pollinated by honeybees.”

Honeybees aren’t the only pollinating insects, Wagoner and Assistant Professor of Biology Christine Stracey said. Both noted other native species of pollinators that are also at risk.

“Helping the pollinators is helping the ecosystem function, whether those are urban ecosystems or natural habitat preserves,” said Stracey.

She said that attention for honeybees has a spillover effect onto the other insects and assists all struggling insect populations to pollinate.

Detroit Hives hopes to increase pollination around the city to encourage more plant growth. The Detroit Free Press and MSN report that the plan is to do this by adding 10 hives this summer and 200 new hives within the next decade.

According to Stracey, this planned growth will be key to positively impacting the bees.

“Having a single bee hive isn’t going to make a big difference, but if you can have hives sprinkled throughout the city, that’s when you get a difference,” said Stracey.

The hives will produce more than just honey and new bees, as they help revitalize barren parts of the city.

“The neighbors love it. They say they wish we were there 10, 20 years ago,” said Lindsey in an interview with the Huffington Post. “That area has always been a place where people dump trash, so when we came there, we gave that area a sense of purpose. The neighbors keep an eye on the area to make sure that people aren’t dumping anymore.”

While the honeybee is an important element of our ecology, some still find them to be frightening. White stressed that our reaction to them could help or hurt them.

“If you see a swarm, don’t call an exterminator. Contact a beekeeper,” said White.

If Paule and Lindsey and other supporters are successful, Detroit will be swarming with bees in the near future and won’t be stung by not having them.