Adopt-a-Hive Q and A

Peter Lutz's business helps pollinate plants and gardens in Providence.

One taste of straight-from-the-hive honey and Peter Lutz wanted more. After he and a friend purchased two hives, they would compare and contrast to learn about the process of beekeeping. “Like a parent, I always wanted my hive to do better,” says Lutz. “Both were installed at the same time, involved the same bees and the same location, but they turned out different…like children.” He was surprised by the nuances in the honey from each hive. In a dense urban setting, bees can collect a variety of plant pollens without racking up frequent flyer miles. His original hive nests in a community garden in Federal Hill, which is fragrant with linden trees; the linden nectar results in a honey with a very upfront floral taste and aroma, and an herbal, almost minty back end.

An artist and woodworker, Lutz went on to found Grove Street Apiary, a collective of ten or so hives scattered throughout Providence. Residents can adopt a hive with a half or full sponsorship; the latter entails supplying a backyard or garden space to plot the hive, and purchasing the equipment and a pack of bees (which totals around $300). Lutz maintains the hive and harvests the honey, while the sponsor is rewarded with the satisfaction of being a community pollinator and supporting the welfare of bees. But they also get some of the golden product and acknowledgement on the packaging. “Bees pollinate more than 70 percent of the food we eat,” he says. “In the past, you could rely on wild bees to pollinate your garden, but there’s no one helping the wild bees; sponsors contribute to pollinating their garden and other ones nearby.” Interested parties can help sponsor a hive that already exists. grovestapiary.com

Extended Q and A with Peter Lutz

What have bees taught you about life?

At first, bees seem kind of mindless, but then you look at a hive and it’s fascinating how each one contributes to its operation. For example, how they store for winter, regulate the temperature of the hive, and communicate its location. It’s helped me to look at society and how people work in a collective the way hives have been naturally doing forever.

What do you tell people about getting stung if they sponsor a backyard hive?                                                     

Some people actually sting themselves because they believe bee venom has medical benefits. People ask whether they are responsible if their bee stings someone, and I usually leave it up to them about whether or not to inform every neighbor. I think that unless someone is allergic, the fear of bees is overblown. Bees aren’t attracted to humans or our food (unless it contains honey or syrup) like hornets or wasps are – often, someone has been stung by a wasp or a hornet and thinks it’s a bee.

The demise of bees has been in the news in recent years. How does their decline affect us?

Bees pollinate more than 70 percent of the food we eat, and the economic impact of fewer bees in terms of pollination and crop yield in the United States is tens of billions of dollars. In the past, you could rely on wild bees to pollinate your garden, but there’s no one helping the wild bees. Commercial beekeepers don’t make their money from selling honey. They earn a living by taking bees to farms where they pollinate the crops, but then the insects are exposed to dangerous pesticides and neurotoxins. If we don’t have enough bees, beekeepers have to charge more for that service. Growers have to pay a premium to get the bees, which results in a higher price for the food that comes to our table.

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