(USA Today) DETROIT — For the past few years, national media have touted Detroit’s comeback story: It endured dark days, went through the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy, and is — literally, with the construction of a new skyscraper — on the rise.
The city is about to face a different kind of buzz.
“We’re starting to see more bees in the city,” said Timothy Paule, who, with his girlfriend, started a nonprofit to build beehives on vacant city plots. “Some people are planting urban farms, and they’re adding bees to help with the yield. Others are doing their part and placing hives in backyards to help the declining bee population.”
As the weather warms up, their bees — and millions of others — will get busy.
Paule is among a growing number of people in Detroit and around the globe who are cultivating urban beehives as part of social missions and small businesses. It is a trend that has prompted cities to lift beekeeping limitations and inspired entrepreneurs to sell beekeeper starter kits and the bees’ honey.
But to Paule, there’s a bigger benefit: saving bees, which, to him, means saving the world.
The Detroiter hopes to add as many as 200 hives in the city in the next decade through his nonprofit, Detroit Hives, by buying vacant Detroit lots, making deals with socially conscious companies to sponsor hives and teaching other people, including schoolchildren, about bees.
“If all bees were to die, we’d all die in four to five years,” Paule, 34, said. “It’s a very serious issue.”
Whether all life would be wiped out if bees became extinct is debatable, but there is scientific agreement that bees, which have seen declines in their population all over the planet, are essential to sustaining a healthy ecosystem.
Without bees, which transfer pollen and seeds from flower to flower, fruit quality suffers.
In Michigan alone — which has designated March as food and agriculture month to remind folks that the state is one of the most agriculturally diverse in the nation with 300-plus farm commodities — agriculture contributes more than $101 billion to Michigan’s economy.
In fact, every spring and summer, Michigan’s farmers rent bees by the truckload — because there aren’t enough bees to do so naturally — to make sure that their apple, peach, blueberry and cherry blossoms are properly pollinated.
“Bees play a very important role during our bloom period in pollinating all the blossoms,” said Kevin Robson, horticulture specialists with the Michigan Farm Bureau in Lansing. “And, it’s not just fruit, they also pollinate cucumbers and zucchini and squash and tomatoes — and everything with a blossom.”