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Three years and more than 100 hives and six million new bees later, Bees in the D is generating major Motor City buzz. “We can’t keep up with all of the emails and the phone calls,” says Peterson-Roest. “It’s unbelievable.”

Three years and more than 100 hives and six million new bees later, Bees in the D is generating major Motor City buzz. “We can’t keep up with all of the emails and the phone calls,” says Peterson-Roest. “It’s unbelievable.”


Honeybees are magical. Through their natural instincts, they pollinate our food sources, as well as crops like cotton and hemp. They help flowers grow more flowers. They give us delicious, versatile honey. By just doing their thing, bees’ tiny duties are vital to life itself.
And for Brian Peterson-Roest, honeybees can be very good friends. Peterson-Roest is the founder of Bees in the D(, a non-profit that’s turning the yards and rooftops of Detroit into homespun apiaries.
Since 2016, the organization has enlightened the local community about the necessity and benefits of the mighty, simple honeybee. Then he began turning volunteer residents and local workers into beekeepers, setting up beehives and training sessions citywide.
Three years and more than 100 hives and six million new bees later, Bees in the D is generating major Motor City buzz. “We can’t keep up with all of the emails and the phone calls,” says Peterson-Roest. “It’s unbelievable.”

Teaching, Learning, and Beekeeping
The Michigan native is, first and foremost, a devoted fifth-grade science teacher. Peterson-Roest is distinguished in his field, serving as president of Michigan Science Teachers Association and as district science coordinator. Along with several teaching honors, he was personally honored by President Barack Obama with the 2014 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
Peterson-Roest’s first exposure to beekeeping, however, “came because of the generosity of others.” Back in 2009, he was invited as a special educational guest for a two-week course on beekeeping at a biological center on Lake Michigan’s Beaver Island.
“I just fell in love with beekeeping,” he says. “I joke with people that I ‘caught the bug,’ but it was like somebody was looking out for me right when I needed it. [At the time] I was struggling with my identity. I grew up in a home that was extremely conservative, and felt like I was not supposed to be who I was. I was supposed to be what everybody else wanted me to be. I was really wrestling within myself, and the bees were a sanctuary for me. They were an escape, and they got me through some hard times.”
Cut to New York City, where a few years ago Peterson-Roest strolled through busy lower Manhattan. There he noticed group of hives in a small area of Battery Park.
“I didn’t think you could keep bees in a more urban setting,” he says. “I thought people would fight it; that it just wouldn’t
work. But I saw the Honeybee Conservancy ( hives right there, and like, millions of people were walking by it—no big deal. And I thought, wait a second, if they can do it, why can’t Detroit?”
Around the same time, he met the man he calls “the most important ‘B’ in my life, my husband”—whose very similar name is Brian Roest-Peterson. Roest-Peterson is an event planner who co-operates Bees in the D.
Instantly nicknamed “the Bs,” the couple soon moved to Detroit, where fate intervened.
“When we moved to the city, number one, I missed the bees,” says Peterson- Roest. “Number two, I was reading about all of this colony-collapse disorder [that’s harmed the bee population], and about honeybee diseases and destructive pathogens. And I’m like, wait a second, the bees were there for me, and my hardship. So maybe it’s time for me to step up and be there for them during their hardship.”
That synthesis gave way to Bees in the D. Driven by its mission for education and conservation, the non-profit has several functions, from workshops and fundraising, to community organizing and corporate partnerships.

Honeybee Pollinating a Flower

Honeybee Pollinating a Flower

Swarms of Local Support
At its core, the organization exists to cultivate the honeybee population. Peterson-Roest explains that he works with Detroiters interested in hosting hives that the Bees in the D will manage; or who, once trained, will manage their own beehives. Each hive site is scouted in advance, and could be in a back yard, community garden, residential or commercial rooftop, or virtually anywhere that’s legally allowed.
Along with hobbyist beekeepers, Bees in the D collaborates with many Detroit-based businesses small and large, including sustainability teams of the big-three automakers, Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors. Several more companies and institutions even make the hives essential parts of their own environmental programs, including the Cobo Center’s “living green roof.” Whether through financial support, or materials, talent, and or space donations, Peterson-Roest says it’s encouraging that local companies “care about pollinators in our ecosystem.”
Bees in the D is diligent about training and hive management, so Peterson-Roest is actively involved in overseeing the hives, a duty he relishes despite being a “minimalist” when it comes to the hives.
He explains, “If my hives are fine when I inspect them, and I see signs of a well-producing queen bee and no signs of disease or parasites, I just let them go. They’re nature and they know what they’re doing. Unfortunately, there are a lot of pathogens and diseases that bring down honeybees and colonies, and that’s one reason why their populations are declining. So I may have to do different treatments to the hives, manipulate a hive, or get a healthier queen.”
He adds, “But really my role is just about visiting the hives, which is such a pleasure—because I’m a guest in their house. I consider it my yoga. When I open up a hive it’s this calming nature. I’m telling you, what they have going on in there is just a miracle. It’s unbelievable. And to be part of that is quite a pleasure.”
Where there are bees, there is honey. Peterson-Roest is quick to note that Bees in the D is not in the honey business, so his team has never measured how much honey their hives produce. (Though as both beekeeping and honey harvesting grows in popularity that may soon change.) Rather,
he says, “All of the honey we harvest is done for educational purposes.” For him, it amounts to free labor, plus the fun lesson of extracting honey from a hive’s frame.
Even better, local makers are finding delightful ways to use that uber-local honey and wax in their products. You can find lip balm, soap, and lotions made with the wax. Detroit’s boutique confectioner Bon Bon Bon (719 Griswold St. Tel: 313-316-1430. flavors its chocolates and other treats with the honey. You’ll find it served in some local restaurants’ food and cocktail menus. And several beverage producers work it into specialty bottles, including Eastern Market Brewing Co. (2515 Riopelle St. Tel: 313-502-5165., and Detroit City Distillery (2462 Riopelle St. Tel: 313-338-3760.

Meanwhile, fans also enjoy Bees in the D joint events with area partners like Blakes Hard Cidery Co. & Tasting Room(17985 Armada Center Rd, Armada. Tel: 586-784-9463., and B.Nektar Meadery & Taproom(1511 Jarvis St., Ferndale. Tel: 313-744-6323. Those gatherings are among the many year-round tastings and fundraisers for the organization, like the annual summer Bee-Bee-Q. Coming this fall, Peterson-Roest also tells of the upcoming party of the year, the “Beehive Ball” fundraising gala and avant-garde fashion show inspired by honeybees and beekeeping suits. Expect unforgettable beehive hairstyles, some of which may even be edible.

Brian Tending to His Bees

Brian Tending to His Bees

Detroit’s Green Culture
Bees in the D is part of the green wave that’s flooding Detroit with smart environmental solutions. Along with other non-profits like Detroit Dirt (, a zerowaste composting and educational organization, Peterson-Roest thinks his hometown is in a second Renaissance.
“I think the city and its residents are thirsting for anything that’s unique and collaborative, and actually it’s turning into a lot about
sustainability, which is really cool,” he says, adding that the city is naturally LGBTQ-friendly too. “Our sustainability programs are setting
high bars, they’re so incredible. And there’s such an entrepreneurial vibe here that I think people are a little bit more involved, and they’re excited to be a part of something. In Detroit, people want to help out and be a part of something that they believe in.”
Even better, the city has a distinct advantage to build sustainably because of what was once a liability: empty lots. Abandoned real estate was long considered detrimental, but today, open spaces are being transformed into urban gardens with diverse foliage—and yes, beehives.
In a tree-filled town like Detroit, green space is abundant. Peterson-Roest calls out Campus Martius Park for its summer “beach” scene and winter ice-skating, plus Capitol Park, Beacon Park, and other pocket parks that form a grassy chain through downtown. They’re complemented by bigger urban oases like Belle Isle Park, which occupies the entire 982-acre island in the Detroit River.
With help from Bees in the D, those parks serve as part of the “Detroit Bee Highway,” a series of safe havens across the greater region where pollinators can stop for food, water, and shelter during their daily high-mileage travels. The highway concept has been a great success thanks to businesses and residences looking to help protect and sustain bees. Between smaller contributions, and greater commitments like hosting a hive and learning how to keep bees, Peterson-Roest is optimistic about the future.
He notes that Bees in the D has grown much faster than expected, and this summer it will add around 50 new hives. Also likely is the creation of a honeybee educational center, the result of donated urban-garden space, a retired shipping container to be converted, and a volunteer architect keen to bring the project to fruition.
“I think people are starting to get it,” he says. “I think people are starting to realize that [honeybee sustainability] is important, and if we don’t do something about it, it’s going to be too late.” Throughout all his pursuits, Peterson-Roest always keeps his sight on serving his beloved bees.
“Beekeeping is of interest to all communities,” he says. “The thing about bees is that they don’t see orientation, they don’t see race, they don’t ethnicity. They just see you as a human, and they are so completely into their hive.”
In a way, Bees in the D operates similarly, with one common pursuit by a diverse board of directors who, Brian proudly notes, consists of people of different ethnicities, ages, and sexual orientations. Assembling a personality mix was a big factor behind launching the company in downtown Detroit, where it can foster inclusiveness and invite different perspectives. Likewise, the Bs are themselves in a symbiotic relationship too, with Roest-Peterson operating mostly behind the scenes. “He sets the stage, I get to shine,” says Peterson-Roest. Such community-building in the human realm, it seems, correlates to the working world of honeybees.
“I know this sounds a little weird, but I honestly believe that the bees know we are there to help them. It’s kind of like if you get a rescue dog—those dogs know that you’re helping them, and that’s all that matters. That’s also why I love working with children, they don’t put people int categories like we do so often as adults. And it’s what I love about Detroit too. It just feels like the whole city is welcoming towards differences. We’ve found nothing but open arms here.”




  • AUGUST 28, 2017

Whether you’re a local Detroiter, or an individual who has never stepped foot in the Motor City, the industrial renown of Detroit is understood by many. From its rich roots in factories and large warehouses to the environment of engineering brought upon by the automobile industry, the city made a name built upon the foundation of metal and motors.

Unfortunately with that reputation, came a legacy of pollution and other not so friendly environmental habits. In the past, not much effort was made regarding the principals of “reduce, reuse and recycle,” not to mention, the ideals of self-sustainability were still far-off in the future.

Enter the 21st century, where it’s more common to find a recycling can in a building than not, and companies striving to find ways to eliminate their carbon footprint. Standing amongst the greats is Cobo Center, where their green initiatives are making quite the buzz.


This past June, the Cobo Center added beehives to a rooftop green space, located on the base of a helicopter-landing pad.

The beehives are maintained by co-founders Brian Peterson-Roest and Brian Roest-Peterson of Bees in the D, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, dedicated to the health of honeybee colonies and the education of their importance to our environment.

Kristin Shaw, manager of digital and social media as well as a member of the green team at Cobo Center, sought a way to expand operations on the green roof when she was introduced to Bees in the D by Tyson Gersh, founder of the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI). Along with having hives at MUFI, Peterson partners with local chocolatier Bon Bon Bon at their Hamtramck location and Detroit City Distillery in the old Stroh’s Ice Cream plant.

“This is the only location that I actually have four hives,” explained Peterson, referencing the roof of Cobo. “The only difference between this location and our other partners is the living roof component. It’s really neat to see the bees in this setting.”


The green roof is located on a repurposed helicopter-landing pad, just above the chilled water plant that provides air conditioning for a few buildings of the Cobo Center. Sitting on 100,000 square-feet of cement, the space is unique in the sense that it not only provides a pollen and sedum source for the bees, it does financial “good” as well. Green roofs absorb so much water, that they actually diminish the runoff water, lowering the cost of sewage and drainage city tax.

“This is the poster shot,” Peterson exclaimed about the rooftop oasis. “This, to me, defines urban beekeeping, and I love that it’s visible to the Cobo employees who come out of the elevator. I think that’s so unique.”


Shaw had discussed the possibility of activating beehives on the green space just a few months ago, in June. “We turned it around very quickly,” she recalled. “[Brian] had to do a little bit of a hunt to find the bees that we could install, since it was late in the season.”

Honeybees, while not an endangered species like their cousin the bumblebee, has a dangerously declining population. Peterson insisted that urban areas, like Detroit, are actually increasing the bee population, due to empty lots and green spaces, like the roof of the Cobo Center.

Peterson is an advocate for Detroit as a leader in beekeeping, with a history that’s very much engrained in the imagery of bees. He pointed out that you can find bee icons in some of the city’s most notable architecture, such as the Masonic Temple and the Fisher and Guardian buildings.


“There are bees incorporated in the architecture because they symbolize, and have symbolized for years, things like industry, producing and resurrection – That’s my favorite one with Detroit right now, because we’re always talking about this resurgence and I love that bees are symbolically becoming a part of the rebirth of Detroit.”

On top of the newly installed honeybee program, Cobo’s efforts of sustainability extend into day-to-day operations.

“We’ve put procedures in place that try to capture a lot of different things that exit Cobo Center,” explained Cedric Turnbore, director of operations for Cobo Center, and co-chairman of the sustainability program.

Such things include composting, with their first season yielding 89,000 pounds of compost, smashing their original goal of 25,000 pounds. They’ve also added 26 recycling stations throughout the facility and use a vinyl-recycling program for their signage.


“It’s also about education,” added Claude Molinari, general manager of Cobo Center. “It’s important to make it as easy as possible for people; to make it where it’s harder to not recycle, otherwise people won’t. Sustainability is engrained in our culture as a facility, not just something that we dabble in, but something that we’re doing everyday.”

The team has future ambitions to build a hydroponics greenhouse, with the goal of growing all produce used in the meals onsite. Efforts of garden-to-table programming are already being implemented, from the herb garden grown in the green space, to adding honey to the mix after their first honey extraction.

Public gathering facilities like the Cobo Center stand as a reminder that while Detroit has a rich history of industry and innovation, there is always an opportunity to change the narrative. From metal and motors to honeybees and sustainability, green initiatives will continue to appear throughout the city, with Cobo striving to set the tone.


“We have a big footprint in the city,” added Shaw. “Everyone that comes here is an opportunity for us to send an advocate of sustainability into the city.”

You can check out more information about Bees in the D on Facebook and Twitter.

What sustainability practices would you like to see happen in Detroit? Let us know in the comments section!















Bon Bon Bon expands to bigger chocolate shop, factory

Bon Bon Bon expands to bigger chocolate shop, factory


Stephanie Steinberg, The Detroit NewsPublished 11:29 p.m. ET July 10, 2017 | Updated 11:29 p.m. ET July 10, 2017

The world-renowned chocolate shop is moving to a historic building in Hamtramck. The grand opening is July 19


The Bon Bon Bon employees, known as the Babes Babes Babes, suited up to check out the honey bees located on the roof of the new shop in Hamtramck. The nonprofit Bees in the D partnered with Bon Bon Bon to produce honey that will be used for the chocolates.

Hamtramck — Bon Bon Bon has said bon voyage to its first chocolate shop in Hamtramck and moved into a new space that’s affectionately nicknamed “The Building Building Building.”

The chocolate shop is opening a bigger factory and shop in Hamtramck on its third birthday, July 19. Founding Chocolatier Alex Clark is especially proud that her new 6,000-square-foot space is a historic building on Jos. Campau.

She said a fire swept through the building in 1966, damaging the walls and floors. The building remained ravaged for decades until Clark started restoring it a year ago. As a tribute to its past, she kept certain remnants, like a wall that bears the fire’s destruction.

The 29-year-old Hamtramck resident unearthed pieces of history while renovating the first and second floors.

“We found a newspaper article in the wall that recorded 47 or 48 people being arrested in the upstairs of our building. That part is pretty crazy,” she said, guessing the building was once a speakeasy. “A lot of people’s grandparents have stories about this building and being here to gamble.”

Hamtramck Mayor Karen Majewski has followed Bon Bon Bon’s success since it opened on Evaline in 2014 and said she’s delighted Clark decided to make Hamtramck her “permanent home.”

“She sees what I and so many others see in Hamtramck: a vibrant, diverse and quirky little city with opportunity to experiment, to take a chance on a dream, and to become part of a true community in the process,” Majewski said. “Alex sets an example for others who are looking for opportunity, and she proves that that opportunity exists in Hamtramck.”

Bon Bon Bon’s enlarged production space, which is 10 times bigger than the original shop, will present new opportunities to handcraft the Bons that come in rotating flavors. Fan favorites like Better Butter Crunch (Better Made potato chips with milk chocolate and sea salt) and Birthday Cake (birthday cake ganache, buttercream frosting and sprinkles) are usually constants on the menu.

“It does allow us to use different techniques we couldn’t do before because we didn’t have the space to house the equipment,” Clark said. “So rather than making more Bons, it lets us make higher quality Bons and be more creative than we were before.”

Clark has also expanded the number of employees, known as the Babes Babes Babes, to 16 and will offer a new e-commerce option to “shop bonline.”

Another bonus Clark is excited about: They can now grow produce, such as herbs and fruits, on the roof.

“There’s nothing better to a chocolatier than being able to run outside and pick whatever you need,” Clark said.

Besides the plants, Clark partnered with the nonprofit Bees in the D to install two beehives on the roof. The honey will be incorporated in the Bons.

Bees in the D founder Brian Peterson, 42, has installed hives for other Detroit businesses like Detroit City Distillery and gardens like Detroit Abloom. When not tending to his 28 hives in southeast Michigan, he teaches fifth-graders at Musson Elementary in Rochester Hills.

The goal is to educate others about the conservation of honey bees, which are declining in numbers, he said. Last week he took a few Babes Babes Babes on the roof for a tour.

“(We) suited them up and gave them a look at the world of the honey bee to help educate and stifle some of those fears that people have about honey bees, because they get mistaken for a lot of the more aggressive bees like wasps,” he said.

While the honey will make the chocolate that much sweeter, Peterson said it gives the product an extra Detroit-made flair.

“The honey is actually from Detroit,” he said. “The bees go about a 2-mile radius, so they’re also going into Detroit to get some of their nectar. So how cool to use those extremely fresh and local resources.”

Clark, a Michigan State University graduate in hospitality and food science, is a 2016 Forbes 30 Under 30 Food and Drink winner and Martha Stewart American Made Award finalist.

Since she launched her dream chocolate shop, customers have gone bonkers over her $3 Bons. And though Clark has held pop-ups in New York and introduced her creations to sweet tooths internationally, she can’t imagine running Bon Bon Bon anywhere but Hamtramck.

“It’s amazing to be a chocolatier in a community that is the most diverse community in the state culturally,” she said. “Making chocolate here is a nonnegotiable thing. Not only do we have amazing neighbors, but as a chocolate shop, I don’t think we could find a more inspiring place to be.”

Bon Bon Bon, which also has downtown Detroit location on Fort Street, will be open six days a week. Hours will be announced soon.


Bees help bring in the harvest

By Linda Shepard

Posted May 10, 2017


METRO DETROIT — When Brian Peterson first planted a vegetable garden, he saw modest success. 

“I got some cucumbers and zucchini and tomatoes,” Peterson said. “But once I got bees, it was unbelievable. I had to pawn off vegetables on the neighbors and make a bunch of pickles. 

“If a flower is not pollinated, it can’t produce fruit,” he said. “The flower will fall off and die. Before I had bees, I would try to pollinate with a brush by hand, hoping I would do an adequate job. The bees do a much better job.” 

Peterson, who is an elementary school teacher, has been teaching others about the benefits of beekeeping since 1999, when he spent two weeks on Beaver Island in northern Michigan attending beekeeping classes. 

A local garden club sponsored him, with improved gardening in mind along with honey production. Since then, Peterson has been sharing his knowledge through classes at Oakland University, Dinosaur Hill Nature Preserve in Rochester and more. 

He also started the nonprofit organization Bees in the D, partnering with city homeowners and Detroit Abloom.

“We help people without much income get more vegetables,” said Peterson, who lives in Detroit.

In addition to installing beehives in Detroit backyards, Peterson has placed hives on building roofs, on Woodward Avenue and in Hamtramck. 

“Bees don’t need a lot of space,” he said. “I thought, ‘How perfect to put them in Detroit, on space wasted on roofs.’”  

Gardeners considering beekeeping to aid vegetable production and to harvest honey should check with local officials and neighborhood associations. 

“A handful of cities have ordinances against (backyard beehives),” Peterson said. “But most cities are open to bees and are starting to recognize their importance. It is becoming an attractive hobby.”

He said honeybees — unlike aggressive yellow jackets and hornets — are fairly docile. 

“There is a huge misunderstanding about honeybees,” Peterson said. “They only sting if their queen is in danger or they are stressed. When a honeybee stings, it dies.” 

Peterson said he has aided homeowners by meeting with neighbors. 

“We did a presentation for the neighbors of a woman in Rochester,” he said. “It became a social event, with honey and wine. Some people are very nervous about bees, especially if they are allergic.”

The global disappearance of bees is “still a huge problem,” he said. 

“Europe banned a few of the main pesticides that contributed to the weakening of bees, and their bee population is on the rise,” he said. “Unfortunately, the pesticide problem is still happening here.” 

For those interested in learning about beekeeping, Oakland Township is offering free beekeeping classes at Cranberry Lake Park on Predmore Road. Oakland Township Historic Preservation Planner Barb Barber said township officials hope the beehives will aid in apple production at the park, which is located within a historic district. 

“We just planted 25 trees in the apple orchard,” Barber said. “The beekeeping program is in the henhouse. The bees will pollinate the apples.”

Saturday beekeeping classes will be held from 1 to 2 p.m. May 13, June 10, July 8 and Aug. 12 at the park. Beekeeper Preston Zale will cover the basics of bees, bee health, beehive maintenance and harvesting honey. 

“The beekeeping program is getting a lot of interest,” Barber said. “We have over 20 people signed up so far.”

For more information or to register for the Cranberry Lake Park beekeeping classes, call (248) 608-6807 or email  

Peterson invites all to attend his Bees in the D Bee-Bee-Q Fundraiser at 4 p.m. June 14 at 200 Riverplace Drive, Suite 35, in Detroit, for food, drinks, live music and a silent auction. A suggested donation is $50 per person. For more information, visit

Beekeeping for Bee-giners

OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — Honeybees are critical to our food supply and ecosystem.

“Six years ago, I went to Beaver Island for a two-week crash course on beekeeping,” Brian Peterson, a Dinosaur Hills volunteer at Oakland Township’s Cranberry Lake Park, said July 20. “I became addicted to bees after one day.”

Peterson led a group of beekeeping enthusiasts through his own crash course of bee information last week, providing valuable tips for starting and maintaining beehives, and giving some bee history.

“The more hands-off you are, the more production you get,” he said. “If you keep your hive neat, you take away from their production.” The bees handle everything. “A beehive is a well-oiled machine,” he said.

Start-up costs for a beekeeper are usually less than $500 for a hive, beekeeper suit and the bees, which are delivered by mail, accompanied by a queen bee. “The start-up is the expense,” Peterson, who is an elementary school science teacher, said. “Then it pays for itself.”

He said he has generated 40 pounds of honey from one beehive this year. “It is a good honey year,” he said. “We’ve had lots of rain.”

Honeybees are not native to North America, Peterson said. They were imported from Europe, and the most popular strains arrived from Italy and Germany. “They were imported here by ship,” he said, and the import “failed more times than it succeeded.”

Now, honeybees are so important to our ecosystem as pollinators that “it is hard to believe they are not native,” Peterson said. Honey is the most preservable food on the planet, he said. “It has been found in the pyramids. If it crystallizes, heat it up and it is fine.”

Scientists are still trying to explain the recent die-offs of beehives worldwide. “They’ve ruled out cellphones,” Peterson said.

Honeybees are not bumblebees or yellow jackets, he explained, and will only sting humans to defend themselves or their home. Honeybees have complex social lives, and hives hold three different types of bees: female worker bees, male drones and the queen.

“All the workers are females and they do everything,” he said. “They clean, forage, guard the beehive and keep it cool. The drones’ only job is to breed and fertilize the queen. The queen lays about 1,000 eggs a day.”

Angela Cremeans, of Rochester Hills, attended the workshop and said she has considered installing a beehive on her property. “I have about an acre,” she said. “I’m interested in bees for pollination and for my own personal honey.”

Liz Timmerman, of Rochester Hills, said she is also interested in increased pollination by bees in her garden. “Last year, my pumpkins never got pollinated,” she said.

Keeping a beehive is an uncomplicated and usually successful operation that can be accomplished in a yard of almost any size. “Bees love artificial hives,” Peterson said. “It is the condo they all want.”

He said new beekeepers should join one of the local bee clubs, which meet once a month and provide information and mentoring.

Peterson said he is currently looking for a loft location that will support a rooftop garden and beehive. “It is becoming more and more acceptable because people are realizing that we need our bees,” he said.



Katherine Pertuso
Spartan Online Newsroom

As Detroit enters a new renaissance, many entrepreneurs have taken advantage of this period of innovation. This includes Brian Peterson, a fifth grade teacher from Rochester and beekeeping enthusiast. He plans on starting one of the first bee highways in the U.S., a system of bee hives on rooftops of local businesses to help pollinate the plants of the “urban farming” movement and produce honey. He and his husband, also named Brian, have started a nonprofit organization “Bees in the D”.

It all started when Peterson was chosen to take a course on beekeeping.

“I was sponsored to gHoneyBeePullQuoteo to a class called beekeeping across the curriculum,” said Peterson. “It was a two-week crash course on beekeeping in the classroom and how to educate the kids. So I caught the bug as I like to tell people, and since then I’ve loved it.”

He said at first, his beekeeping only made it as far as the women’s local garden club in Rochester, but soon got the urge to move to the city. However, before Peterson could do that there were a few legal gray areas that needed to be addressed.

“There are no ordinances really for or against it,” said Peterson. “There are people in the city limits that do beekeeping and it’s never really been an issue.”

There are currently ordinances in the works Peterson hopes will have the language to legalize beekeeping. By using examples of pioneers of urban beekeeping like New York City, San Francisco, Madison and more, he wants to set the precedent that urban beekeeping is beneficial and safe. Peterson said he believes the benefits to the community outweigh the safety concerns of some.

“Bees have been a symbol of resurrection throughout history. They’re also a signal of being prosperous and successful and I feel that mirrors Detroit beautifully. It’s a resurrection right now,” said Peterson. “Detroit had a reputation as Motor City, then it had a reputation that wasn’t so desired, but now we’re seeing another push of Detroit becoming an art mecca, a technology mecca, a greening and gardening mecca.”

Honeybees would not only benefit Detroit’s community, but agriculture as a whole said Peterson.

“Your greenery whether it’s vegetables, whether it’s flowers, you will have a much higher yield because of the pollination of bees,” Peterson said. “Without the pollinators you can still get fruit and flowers but the plant is weakened so that’s obviously a huge benefit as well.”

The NRDC released a report in 2011 stating, “Pollinators transfer pollen and seeds from one flower to another…Cross-pollination helps at least 30 percent of the world’s crops and 90 percent of our wild plants to thrive. Without bees to spread seeds, many plants–including food crops–would die off.” Some of the fruits and vegetables pollinated by honeybees include apples, oranges, blueberries, carrots, avocados and almonds.”

Honeybeefoods2While putting honey bees in urban areas is a safety concern for many, Peterson said he hopes to break stereotypes of bees.

“That’s the biggest challenge that beekeepers like myself face and that is why my main passion is educating people that not only are the bees extremely important to our livelihood, our food, our everything, they’re also not as horrible as you may think,” said Peterson.

Peterson explained that not only are honeybees docile, but are often mixed up with other species.

“When honeybees sting, unlike hornets and wasps, they’re stinger gets stuck within their skin, it rips their abdomen and they die,” said Peterson. “It’s different from hornets that can sting repetitively and really have nothing to lose out of the whole process.”

In the end what Peterson seems to value above all else is bringing up Detroit, being a pioneer and changing wasted space into something useful.honeycomb

“Honey bees and an urban environment can have a symbiotic relationship,” said Peterson. “We can function together. What I love about that aspect of it is most of the spots that I’m eyeing are wasted space. Rooftops where nothing is happening or vacant lots; areas that are for the most part not being used so that’s the beauty of it.”