Bee’s knees: Hive finds home on downtown roof

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News
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There’s some new buzz about bees at the 615 West Lafayette Building in downtown Detroit.

A Detroit nonprofit Thursday placed a beehive on the roof of the building, once home to The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press on Lafayette Boulevard downtown.

“We’re going to give them their new home on the top of the 615 West Lafayette Building,” Brian Peterson-Roest, co-founder of Bees In The D, said before removing the first of about five beehive frames from a cardboard box and placing them into a wooden hive. “They can now call Detroit their home. The population of Detroit just went up a bit.”

Bees in the D co-founder Brian Peterson-Roest, 43, of Detroit, talks about his bees April 26, 2018.

He made the remarks Thursday before setting up the hive. He was joined by his husband and the nonprofit’s other co-founder, Brian Roest-Peterson, 45, also of Detroit, as well as officials with Bees In The D and Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock real estate development company.

It’s the first of six planned honeybee hives for the building’s rooftop, he said. He explained the nonprofit is working with Bedrock to create an apiary on the building, located at 615 W. Lafayette at Third Avenue, near the John C. Lodge Freeway.

As part of Bees In The D’s deal with Bedrock, the honey produced in the hives will be used in the Press Room Café on the building’s first floor, he said.

“They’re benefiting from it,” Peterson-Roest said. “So are we. But more than anything, the bees are benefiting from it and that’s our whole purpose.”

About 10,000 bees are in the first hive, Peterson-Roest said. By mid-summer the colony should grow to about 60,000, he said. If all goes well, the first harvest of honey could be ready in June and another available around Labor Day, he said.

The building’s location and rooftop make it the ideal site for a beehive, Peterson-Roest of Detroit said.

“This is a great location because it has a guard wall,” said Peterson-Roest, 43, . “And there are a lot of urban gardens nearby. This is perfect.”

The bees will stay in a 2-3 mile radius of the hive and collect food, nectar and pollen from trees and flowers, Peterson-Roest said. He said there are a lot of green areas and urban gardens in that radius. 

Based in Detroit, Bees In The D works to grow the number of honeybee colonies in the region and educate people about their importance to the environment. Peterson-Roest and his husband started the nonprofit a couple of years ago.

It has an apiary on the campus of Oakland University used to educate the public. It also has them at the Detroit City Distillery in Eastern Market, the Detroit Abloom flower garden in the city’s Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood and Cobo Center’s Living Green Roof.

Two years ago, the group placed six hives around Metro Detroit. Last year, it added 23 more and Peterson-Roest said the nonprofit is on track to have more than 100 hives in the area.

Bees are important because in addition to making honey, they are among the creatures that pollinate plants that make up about a third of the human diet.

Two years ago, the United Nations issued a report urging countries to make the protection of pollinators like honeybees to ensure food security.

A number of Detroiters have already started backyard beekeeping operations. It’s estimated the city has about 2,000 registered hives and many more unregistered ones.

The trend bodes well for the bugs since bees and other pollinators have been on the decline for more than a decade due to pesticides, parasites, disease, climate change and lack of a diverse food supply.

Based in downtown Detroit, Bedrock owns more than 100 office, retail and residential properties totaling over 16 million square feet in the city and in Cleveland.

The company purchased The Detroit News building in 2014. The News and the Detroit Free Press relocated to the 1927 Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago building a block off Campus Martius.

Bedrock gutted the building and modernized it. It now houses about 1,400 Quicken Loans and Molina Healthcare of Michigan employees. The building was designed by the legendary Albert Kahn in 1916.

Peterson-Roest said he thinks having beehives on top of the building will be a point of pride for the people who work there.

“How cool to be able to eat honey fresh from the roof over your head,” he said.

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