Beekeepers Beckon Harvest Season in Detroit

hen giving your thanks this holiday, save a few words for the bees. Karanja Famodou-lead beekeeper of D-Town Farm on Detroit's west side-cautiously cares for the swarming hives, preserving their livelihood and keeping them pollenating.

It all started about two years ago after helping his son, Pablo, with a gardening project. Since then, Famodou, affectionately called "Baba" (father) at D-Town, has been a mainstay on the farm. The land, owned by the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, fosters nourishment in the area's Black community through urban agriculture.

"Our philosophy is that we want the bees to have enough (honey) to get through the winter," says Famodou. "Beyond that, we harvest and sell at various markets around the city."

Each hive begins with about 3,000 bees. They are united with a queen and then begin building honeycombs out of beeswax. The queen bee can lay about 1,500 eggs a day as she maintains a colony of more than 60,000 worker bees.

"Our (bees) are pretty docile," says Famodou. Yet "No matter what species of bee, if you open a hive and you make alarming moves, then that's when they will become aggressive and attack."


One time, they did. "I was weed wacking in the area, so of course that alarmed them," he recalls. "I didn't have on any protective gear. I opened the hive in the corner just to take a look, and they were not pleased."

Queens live on average for one to two years; standard worker bees about three to six weeks. It's a delicate process. Factors like condensation and cold weather can be threats. But perhaps the biggest is people; particularly, pesticide use.

"That's impacting their ability to find food. It's a significant problem. Without bees, we wouldn't have fruits or vegetables"-or Thanksgiving. "That's not a good thing."

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