Revive the Hive: Cyclists and Beekeepers Unite to Save the Pollinators

What’s up with the bees? Why should we care? What can we do?

You may know that honeybees are dying and we’re losing pollinators. Beekeepers these days lose 30 to 40 percent of their hives annually, and this year is looking like the worst year for beekeeping ever.

Honeybees pollinate one third of the food we eat and this third includes many of the delicious, nutritious fruits and vegetables we love. If you’re a plant that has a nice smelling, beautiful flower, you have that flower to attract an animal pollinator, and, with the way we grow food in this country these days, that animal is likely a bee. If we lose bees completely, there are huge implications for access to nutritious foods. If we lose pollinators, it’s not outside the scope of reality that we’d lose flowering plants all together.

Our organization, The Beez Kneez, is working to revive the hive. We’re a Minneapolis based organization committed to raising public awareness of, and connection to honeybees and pollinators. The Beez Kneez establishes and maintains honeybee hives in public spaces of the Twin Cities. We also teach public classes in those hives and deliver local, raw unprocessed honey to our community by bicycle to over 150 homes, two farmer’s markets, three CSAs and 20 businesses.

We've been working closely with the University of Minnesota Bee Lab, run by MacArthur Fellow Dr. Marla Spivak. Both Kristy Allen and I, Erin Rupp, are teachers, bicyclists and beekeepers. Allen started The Beez Kneez over two years ago, in partnership with Bar Bell Bee Ranch, her aunt and uncle’s honey and pollination apiary. Motivated by the issues facing pollinators and ultimately our food system, she combined two of her passions, beekeeping and bicycling. Allen and I met at a farm in Osceola, Wisconsin in late summer of 2009, where we both kept bees. We found we have a lot in common and my passion for hands-on learning set the stage for the second phase of The Beez Kneez: Community Bees on Bikes, our education and community beekeeping program.

Bees are amazing teaching tools and important points of connection to our food system. We love putting people in bee suits and teaching about bees in working bee hives at community gardens, urban farms, parks, and schools. We have a number of different teaching models to make these classes accessible to school groups, work retreats, families, people on dates, you name it. We love biking around the Twin Cities, delivering our honey and tending to our hives dressed as bees. We get to interact with our community this way, and we hope seeing us bike by through the snow brightens people's days and serves as a reminder of the importance of honeybees.

Our goal is to connect to and collaborate with more people. The bees need us. We’re working toward building The Beez Kneez Honey House, a hive of our own, and we’re fundraising through Kickstarter for the project. The Beez Kneez Honey House will be a collaborative space for us, Twin Cities' hobby beekeepers, and for the University of Minnesota Bee Squad to extract honey. We’re over 75 percent funded, with just under two weeks left of our six week campaign. Please help us revive the hive!

This project was featured in GOOD's Saturday series Push for Good—our guide to crowdfunding creative progress.

This month, we're challenging the GOOD community to host a dinner party and cook a meal that contains fewer ingredients than the number of people on the guest list. Throughout March, we'll share ideas and resources for being more conscious about our food and food systems. Join the conversation at and on Twitter at #chewonit.

Photos courtesy of The Beez Kneez

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