The buzz around metro Detroit is that there are likely few people who know and share more about the importance of bees than Brian Peterson. And he practices what he preaches.
“A decade ago the die-off rate for bees in Michigan during the winter was 19%. Last year it was 53%, and two years ago it was 72%," said Peterson, founder of the Detroit-based nonprofit Bees in the D. With the declining bee population nationwide, “it is important now more than ever to educate about honey bees and their conservation.”
Pesticides are the main reason for the weakening bee population, Peterson said.
So on any given day, you can find Peterson working on rooftops in metro Detroit caring for bees and harvesting honey.
Bees in the D is maintaining 29 beehives across metro Detroit.
The bees from the hives that Bees in the D helps maintain go across urban gardens and wildflowers throughout the city and help assist in the pollination of plants, according to Peterson. He said bees help produce one-third of food consumed nationwide. He said he hopes that his projects will also help turn around the declining bee population in metro Detroit.
Some of the beehives, including two on top of Detroit City Distillery in Eastern Market, benefit the hives' hosts. Peterson said he partnered with distillery owner J.P Jerome because Peterson prefers to work with local companies and make use of essentially wasted rooftop space.
Though the space may be wasted, the harvest is not. Detroit City Distillery incorporates the honey produced by the 40,000 bees on its roof in some of its drinks.
“We try to buy all our products as local as possible, and it really can’t get more local than our own roof,” said Jerome.
But the honey is not just for drinks.
“Bees are responsible for about one-third of the food we eat. Their declining population is potentially harming the food industry,” Peterson said.
Some of that food can be found in Cobo Center. Cobo is Bees in the D's newest site. The four hives on Cobo’s Living Roof can be seen from Cobo’s observation deck. Cobo Center uses the harvested honey in its kitchen, along with the herbs that are grown on the Living Roof.
"Our living green roof is the perfect location for fostering honeybee hives, so partnering with Bees in the D was a natural fit," said Claude Molinari, general manager of Cobo Center. "With 10,000 square feet of living green roof and organic herb gardens already growing in the old Cobo heliport location, the addition of honeybees to the ecosystem is designed to improve the health and growth of all our sustainable installations."