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  • Now that your minds are open

  • I would like to tell you my goal for this talk.

  • Which is to change your perspective on many things.

  • How about this for one?

  • (Laughter)

  • This man is wearing what we call a "Bee Beard."

  • A beard full of bees.

  • Now this is what many of you might picture

  • when you think about honeybees.

  • Maybe insects or maybe anything that has more legs than two.

  • And let me start by telling you I gotcha. I understand that.

  • But there are many things to know

  • and I want you to open your minds here,

  • keep them open and change your perspective about honeybees.

  • Notice that this man is not getting stung.

  • He probably has a queen bee tied to his chin

  • and the other bees are attracted to it.

  • so this really demonstrates our relationship with honeybees

  • and that goes deep back for thousands of years.

  • We're very co-evolved because we depend on bees for pollination

  • and even more recently as an economic commodity.

  • Many of you may have heard that honeybees are disappearing.

  • Not just dying, but they're gone.

  • We don't even find dead bodies.

  • This is called "Colony Collapse Disorder"

  • and it's bizarre.

  • Researchers around the globe still do not know what's causing it.

  • But what we do know is that with the declining numbers of bees

  • the costs of over a 130 fruit and vegetable crops that we rely on

  • for food is going up in price.

  • So honeybees are important for their roll in the economy

  • as well as in agriculture.

  • Here you can see some pictures of what are called green roofs

  • or urban agriculture.

  • We're familiar with the image on the left.

  • That shows a local neighborhood garden in the south end.

  • That's where I call home. I have a beehive in the backyard.

  • And perhaps a green roof in the future

  • when we're further utilizing urban areas

  • where there are stacks of garden spaces.

  • Check out this image above the orange line in Boston.

  • Try to spot the beehive.

  • It's there!

  • It's on the rooftop right on the corner there

  • and it's been there for a couple of years now.

  • The way that urban beekeeping currently operates is that the

  • beehives are quite hidden and it's not because they need to be,

  • it's just because people are uncomfortable with the idea.

  • And that's why I want you today to try to think about this.

  • Think about the benefits of bees in cities

  • and why they really are a terrific thing.

  • Let me give you a brief rundown on how pollination works.

  • So we know flowers. We know fruits and vegetables.

  • Even some alfalfa and hay that the livestock

  • for the meats that we eat rely on pollinators.

  • But you've got male and female parts to a plant here

  • and basically the pollinators are attracted to plants for their nectar

  • and in the process a bee will visit some flowers and pick up some pollen

  • or that male, kind of sperm counterpart along the way

  • and then travel to different flowers

  • and eventually, an apple in this case will be produced.

  • You can see the orientation, the stem is down.

  • The blossom end has fallen off by the time we eat it.

  • But that's a basic overview of how pollination works.

  • And let's think about urban living, not today and not in the past

  • but what about in 100 years.

  • What's it going to look like?

  • We have huge, grand challenges these days of habitat loss.

  • We have more and more people, billions of people.

  • In 100 years god knows how many people and how little space

  • there will be to fit all of them.

  • So we need to change the way that we see cities.

  • And looking at this picture on the left of New York City today

  • you can see how gray and brown it is.

  • We have tarpaper on the rooftops

  • that bounces heat back into the atmosphere.

  • Contributing to global climate change no doubt.

  • What about in 100 years. If we have green rooftops everywhere

  • and gardening and we create our own crops right in the cities.

  • We save on the cost of transportation.

  • We save on a healthier diet

  • and we also educate and create new jobs locally.

  • We need bees for the future of our cities and urban living.

  • Here's some data that we collected

  • through our company with Best Bees.

  • Where we deliver, install and manage honeybee hives

  • for anybody who wants them.

  • In the city, in the countryside.

  • And we introduce honeybees and the idea of beekeeping

  • in your own back yard or rooftop or fire escape for even that matter.

  • And seeing how simple it is and how possible it is.

  • There's a counterintuitive trend that we noticed in these numbers.

  • So let's look at the first metric here.

  • Overwintering survival.

  • Now this has been a huge problem for many years.

  • Basically since the late 1980's when the Varroa Mite came

  • and brought many different viruses, bacteria and fungal diseases with it.

  • Overwintering success is hard and that's when most of the colonies are lost.

  • And we found that in the cities bees are surviving better

  • than they are in the country. A bit counterintuitive right?

  • We think, Oh bees, countryside, agriculture.

  • But that's not what the bees are showing.

  • The bees like it in the city.

  • Furthermore, they also produce more honey.

  • The urban honey is delicious.

  • The bees in Boston on the rooftop of the Seaport Hotel

  • where we have hundreds of thousands of bees flying overhead right now -

  • that I'm sure none of you noticed when we walked by -

  • are going to all of the local community gardens

  • and making delicious, healthy honey

  • that just tastes like the flowers in our city.

  • So the yield for urban hives in terms of honey production

  • is higher as well

  • as the overwintering survival compared to rural areas.

  • Again a bit counterintuitive.

  • And looking back historically at the timeline of honeybee health

  • we can go back to the year 950 and see that there was also

  • a great mortality of bees in Ireland.

  • So the problem with bees today isn't necessarily something new.

  • It has been happening since over 1,000 years ago.

  • But what we don't really notice are these problems in cities.

  • One thing I want to encourage you to think about

  • is the idea of what an urban island is.

  • You think in the city maybe the temperature is warmer.

  • Why are bees doing better in the city?

  • This is a big question now to help us understand

  • why they should be in the city.

  • Perhaps there's more pollen in the city

  • with the trains coming into urban hubs

  • they can carry pollen with them,

  • very light pollen and it's just a big supermarket in the city.

  • Lot of linden trees live along the railroad tracks.

  • Perhaps there are fewer pesticides in the cities

  • than there are in [rural] areas.

  • Perhaps there are other things we're just not thinking about yet.

  • But that's one idea to think about, urban islands.

  • And Colony Collapse Disorder

  • is not the only thing affecting honeybees.

  • Honeybees are dying and it's a huge,

  • huge grand challenge of our time.

  • What you can see up here is a map of the world

  • and we're tracking the spread of this Varroa Mite.

  • Now the Varroa Mite is what changed the game in beekeeping.

  • And you can see at the top right the years are changing.

  • We're coming up to modern times

  • and you can see the spread of the Varroa Mite.

  • From the early 1900's through now it's 1968

  • and we're pretty much covering Asia.

  • 1971 we saw it spread to Europe and South America.

  • And then when we get to the 1980's

  • and specifically in 1987,

  • the Varroa Mite finally came

  • to North America, to the United States.

  • And that is when the game changed

  • for honeybees in the United States.

  • Many of us will remember our childhood growing up

  • maybe you got stung by a bee, you saw bees in flowers.

  • Think of the kids today.

  • Their childhood's a bit different.

  • They don't experience this.

  • The bees just aren't around anymore.

  • So we need bees and they're disappearing and it's a big problem.

  • What can we do here?

  • So what I do is honeybee research.

  • I got my PhD studying honeybee health.

  • I started in 2005 studying honeybees.

  • In 2006 honeybees started disappearing.

  • So suddenly like this little nerd kid

  • going to school working with bugs

  • became very relevant in the world. (Laughter)

  • It just was serendipitously.

  • And it worked out that way.

  • So my research focuses on ways to make bees healthier.

  • I don't research what's killing the bees per se.

  • I'm not one of the many researchers around the world

  • who's looking at the effects of pesticides or diseases

  • or habitat loss and poor nutrition on bees.

  • I'm a step beyond that.

  • We're looking at ways to make bees healthier through vaccines.

  • Through yogurt, like probiotics, and other types of therapies.

  • In ways that can be fed orally to bees

  • and this process is so easy even a 7 year old can do it.

  • You just mix up some pollen, sugar and water

  • and whatever active ingredient you want to put in and give it

  • to the bees, no chemicals involved. Just immune boosters.

  • Humans think about our own health in a prospective way.

  • We exercise, we eat healthy, we take vitamins.

  • Why don't we think about honeybees in that same type of way?

  • Bring them to areas where they're thriving

  • and try to make them healthier before they get sick.

  • I spent many years in grad school trying to poke bees

  • and do vaccines with needles. (Laughter)

  • Like years. Years at the bench.

  • Oh my gosh, it's 3 am and I'm still pricking bees.

  • And then one day I said

  • "Why don't we just do an oral vaccine?"

  • It's like, "Ugh", so that's what we do.

  • (Laughter)

  • I'd love to share with you some images of urban bee hives.

  • Because they can be anything.

  • I mean really open you mind with this.

  • You can paint a hive to match your home.

  • You can hide a hive inside your home.

  • These are three hives on the rooftop of the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel.

  • And they're beautiful here.

  • We matched the new color of the inside of their rooms

  • to do some type of a stained wood with blue for their sheets.

  • And these bees are terrific.

  • And they also will use herbs that are growing in the garden.

  • That's what the chefs go to to use for their cooking.

  • And the honey. They do live events.

  • They'll use that honey at their bars.

  • Honey is a great nutritional substitute for regular sugar

  • because of different types of sugars in there.

  • We also have a classroom hives project

  • where - this is a nonprofit venture -

  • we're spreading the word around the world

  • for how honeybee hives can be taken into the classroom

  • or into the museum setting behind glass

  • and used as an educational tool.

  • This hive that you see here,

  • has been in Fenway High School for many years now.

  • The bees fly right into the outfield of Fenway Park.

  • Nobody notices it.

  • If you're not a flower, these bees do not care about you.

  • (Laughter)

  • They don't. They don't.

  • They'll say "S'cuse me, flying around."

  • So there are a lot of different things to learn about bees.

  • We work with Italian bees and they are very docile.

  • They are good honey producers.

  • They're not an aggressive type of bee.

  • That's something to learn about. There are different kinds.

  • And students in this geometry classroom

  • have learned how that hexagonal shape has evolved in nature.

  • Why don't bees make a square pattern in the wax?

  • Why don't they do triangle?

  • And the teacher there, Benedette Manning, just won

  • an outstanding teacher of the year award

  • from the Boston public school system for her work

  • with honeybees in the classroom.

  • It's terrific.

  • Some other images here in telling a part of the story

  • that really made urban beekeeping terrific

  • is in New York City beekeeping was illegal until 2010.

  • That's a big problem because what's going

  • to pollenate all of the gardens and the produce locally? Hands?

  • I mean locally in Boston there is a terrific company

  • called Green City Growers and they are going and pollenating

  • our squash crops by hand with Q-tips.