Call her a “beevangelist.” Since 2012, urban farmer Kate Franzman has installed hives around town at spots like The Sky Farm at Eskenazi Health, and educated students on the nationwide drop in the bee population through her nonprofit, Bee Public. Now, after winning a grant from SustainIndy, she’s partnering with Earth Charter Indiana to create Save the Bees Indiana, which will include setting up hives in schools and organizing public art shows. Why so much buzz over an insect? Take a look.
They’re dropping like flies.
In 2006, professional beekeepers started losing up to 90 percent of their bee populations annually in what’s been termed Colony Collapse Disorder. There was no obvious trauma or cause, but studies have since linked neonicotinoids, a specific class of pesticides, to the disappearance of bees, along with changing weather patterns, farming methods, and habitat loss.
That loss endangers our food supply.
You think ants are workhorses? Bees do 80 percent of the insect pollination that keeps our food supply strong. Without pollination, plants won’t bear fruit or vegetables, and that means no cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries, spinach, beets, and so on. As Franzman says succinctly in her classes, “No bees, no food.”
Spring is the time to help.
Want to start your own hive? Do it now. Beginning in spring gives bees plenty of time to make and store honey for next winter (tips at beepublic.com). But there are easier ways to give the black-and-yellow fellas a lift, too, from planting native species and sunflowers—a favorite bee food—to rethinking home fertilizers or pesticides, which can be harmful to the insects. And if you see a swarm of them, say, hanging from a tree branch like a giant Christmas ornament, don’t panic. “They’re looking for a new home and will probably move along within hours,” explains Franzman, “so it’s best to leave them alone.”
Save the Bees will teach students how to communicate with politicians and encourage them to ask their representatives to follow the lead of cities like Portland and Seattle to ban neonicotinoids in parks and other community spaces. Says Franzman, “A sign of success will be if we can effect change in the city’s policies.”
Franzman has convinced urban farmers to install their own hives. The win-win proposition provides a home for bees as well as pollinators for farms at places like the Chase Near Eastside Legacy Center. Plus, bees travel up to 5 miles to pollinate.
Could you get stung starting a hive? Yes. Franzman’s advice: Get the stinger out within seconds. “The longer you leave it in, the more venom will be pumped into your skin.” Then dab the spot with baking soda.
In the Wings
Spring also brings large-scale public art projects from Save the Bees to build awareness. Hundreds of bee sculptures, made by students with recycled materials, will be on display at the Artsgarden downtown throughout the month of April.