The Best Bees Company

photo 2 (2)The Best Bees Company was established in 2010 with intentions of stimulating public awareness and appreciation for the invaluable ecosystem services provided by the honeybee. Through the installation and management of over 500 beehives located around New England, Best Bees generates funds to further research the suffering honeybee population and enhance overall honeybee health. With just seven full time employees (two scientists with PhDs in animal behavior, one business manager, and four on-call beekeepers) BBC miraculously manages to oversee the beehives of approximately 350 clients. These beehives are located on the rooftops and backyards of hotels, restaurants, and family residences spreading through Boston, Cape Cod, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New York, and Connecticut.

Even my most typical day was hardly ever typical compared to the standard summer internship. Our Honeybee Research Lab and Apiary was located in a very urban strip of Boston, ironically squeezed between an auto body shop and a contracting company. Our parking lot was therefore constantly filled with an interesting mixture of scrap metal, door parts, bees, honey, and beeswax. On days when our bees were particularly active, our nervous neighbors would don our beekeeping suits to ease their fear of getting stung.

While our peculiar set up regularly turned some heads, it was a perfect metaphor for Best Bees. We make it our mission to bring together urban settings, honeybee habitats, and people who may not love the idea of dealing so intimately with stinging insects.

While most of my days consisted of honey harvesting, beekeeping, working on experiments, and assembling beehives, I was frequently given opportunities to lead group tours of our facility, educate clients about beekeeping techniques, attend farmer’s markets to raise awareness about bees and make sales, and collaborate with a local green landscaping company about green rooftop design. My favorite aspect of Best Bees is the way the team approaches honeybee vulnerability and depletion from several different angles. The installation and management of beehives combined with the founder’s book sales, teaching schedule, and talk tours produces enough profit (approx. $350,000/year) to fund all the research we do at the lab. This enables us to constantly produce new research, test new hypotheses, write scientific reports, and spread awareness of our mission to help the honeybee thrive.

While our average client knows very little about honeybees, our clients share a similar commitment to sustainable lifestyles, promoting urban agriculture, and supporting locally sourced food. Whether we are dealing with all twelve thriving hives at Iggy’s Bread of Cambridge or the one struggling hive behind Mrs. Norris’ goat farm in Southern New Hampshire, we devote at least one visit to each hive every two weeks.

During a typical visit, I would go through each frame of honeycomb to check for the presence of a healthy queen, signs of any diseases, capped honey to take back for harvesting, pest intrusion, and good proportions of honey, brood, and adult bees. Some clients love to watch from afar, some clients want nothing to do with the bees and just want the honey, and others will jump right in with us dressed in their own full suit.

Throughout the summer I was able to take on several projects with which I became very passionate. I loved helping our scientists test a new, all-natural parasite treatment from Ireland and was especially excited to see it work effectively on our experiment hives. My favorite project was definitely spearheading collaboration with a small, sustainability-minded landscaping company who was looking to share clients. I took a lot of ownership over the project and was really happy to see it pan out. It allowed me to network with some really amazing people in the urban agriculture field and I had unique opportunities to witness the behind the scenes realities of several sustainable restaurants and hotels.

IMG_2405While my summer was an overall success, it certainly forced me to explore tasks with which I wasn’t always entirely comfortable. I learned about the constant struggle that is starting a small business, managing budgets, and working with approximately fifty times more clients than we have employees. My experience with Best Bees ignited in me an interest in start-up companies, entrepreneurship, and environmental non-profit work. I also discovered the importance of working in a diverse work environment in which tasks regularly change and employees bring a wide array of skills and perspectives into the work environment.

Moving forward, I see myself working in a very similar environment to Best Bees. It was an amazing combination of my interests in education, community outreach, habitat conservation, advancing environmental research, and beekeeping. I feel very privileged to have gotten this opportunity and will forever remember the lessons I learned from this summer.