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Fifth-grade teacher spreads pollen and a love of bees in Detroit

Jun 21, 2018

 


They may be tiny, but the honeybee is a powerful force for good in our environment.

Brian Peterson is a fifth-grade teacher in Rochester and the founder of Bees in the D, a nonprofit centered around urban beekeeping.

Peterson spoke with Stateside about how exactly he caught the bug for beekeeping, and how he's spreading his love for the pollinators around Southeast Michigan.

Ten years ago, the science coordinator for Rochester community schools called Peterson and told him the Women’s Garden Club of Rochester wanted to sponsor a school teacher for a two-week crash course on beekeeping. 

Peterson said he could not sign up fast enough. 

After that, Peterson got his own hives for his garden, and quickly saw the impact the bees had on his produce. Before having bee hives, Peterson said he would take a paint brush and spread pollen on his plants himself. 

“I ended up getting the beehives and put my paintbrush away,” Peterson said. “I had so many vegetables. I learned to pickle. I learned to jar. I learned to make everything known to man out of zucchini because I had so much, I couldn’t give it away fast enough.”

Credit Kathryn Condon / Michigan Radio

When Peterson and his now-husband decided to move to Detroit from Lake Orion, he thought his beekeeping days were over. Then, he took a vacation to New York City. 

“I was at Battery Park and literally three feet away from me — here are beehives, right in the middle of this public park. And I thought wait for a second, if they can do that, why can't I in Detroit?” Peterson recalled.  

From there, Peterson launched his nonprofit and started building hives and educating people about bees.

“We wanted to be a voice for the bee. And I owe the bees that much because beekeeping actually came into my life at a time where I was really struggling and it became — I call it my yoga,” Peterson said. “It relaxes me. I go in the hives, it just calms me down.”

Peterson said getting people to place beehives in their own yard just takes a little education. The best way to do that, he said, is to take them to the hives so can see just how docile bees are. 

If someone can't commit to an entire hive in their backyard, Peterson said they can help by planting more bee-friendly plants like lavender, herbs, and wildflowers. He said Bees in the D is working to create a "bee highway" of habitat in Southeast Michigan. 

The organization will be hosting its Second Annual Bee-Bee-Q fundraiser Saturday, June 23.

This post was written by Stateside production assistant Sophie Sherry. 

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