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Meet the Beekeeping Couple Transforming Vacant Lots

Timothy Paule and Nicole Lindsey use their passion for bees to beautify and educate their community.

Beekeepers Timothy Paule and Nicole Lindsey
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Who they are: Detroit natives Timothy Paule and Nicole Lindsey founded Detroit Hives, a nonprofit that buys vacant properties in the city to transform into bee farms. (With more than 90,000 vacant lots, there’s a lot to work with!) The duo is focused on improving the Motor City’s “left behind” communities and educating people about apiology (the study of bees). Their motto: “Work hard, stay bumble!”

What they do: They transformed an abandoned lot into their first urban bee farm in 2017. “We hope that our work beautifies communities and cultivates and improves the environment as well,” Timothy says. They also educate the community about the importance of honeybees. One third of the food we eat depends on pollination.

Why they do it: Timothy got interested in honey and honeybees because of a cough he couldn’t shake. He was sick for months, until a store owner in nearby Ferndale recommended local raw honey for its medicinal properties. Soon Timothy’s cough was gone.

He researched beekeeping, and his partner, Nicole, suggested they bring it to Detroit. “We had wanted to do something with the vacant lots that would uplift the community,” says Timothy. Abandoned properties often become illegal dumping grounds, contributing to an overgrowth of allergens—not to mention urban blight.

How they do it: Timothy and Nicole took classes to become certified beekeepers. They bought their first vacant lot for $340, with the aid of the Detroit Land Bank Authority community partnership program. From there, they built three hives and vegetable garden plots. “Beekeeping has allowed me to understand that everything and everyone has a purpose in their environment,” Timothy says. “It’s taught me to be a good steward of our surroundings.”

In addition to making and selling honey, Detroit Hives spreads awareness about bees through public tours of the farm. For out-of-towners, they even offer a bee farm tour through Airbnb. “We have people from France, Canada—all over the world,” Timothy says. “They learn about honeybee hives and the medicinal value of local honey.”

He and Nicole also speak at schools. Some students are afraid of bees at first, but “we talk to them about how everyone has a place in the hive, from the queen to the worker bees and drone bees,” Timothy says. “The students find it intriguing that each honeybee has a unique job.”

How you can do it: Everyone can prevent urban blight and help save the bees. Post a no dumping sign in vacant lots in your neighborhood, and file a complaint with your municipality. Picking up the phone shows that you care. Some people even buy abandoned lots adjacent to their homes and repurpose them for gardens. Avoid using pesticides and herbicides, and plant bee-friendly flowers such as mint, sage and raspberries. These plants help bees thrive.

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