Bee Healthy: Protecting our VIPs (Very Important Pollinators)

Burts-Bees-observation-hive​Patrice Sherman and John Cogswell contributed to this post.

Some 15,000 new worker bees have swarmed the Burt’s Bees® office. Literally. The Burt’s Bees® team has installed the largest observation beehive in North Carolina in the wall of its Durham lobby. Glass observation panels make life inside the six-foot by two-foot hive life visible to those visiting the offices and people passing by outside.

The hive is the result of a partnership with Bee Downtown, a Durham nonprofit focused on honeybee education and urban beekeeping. Custom-made for the space by North Carolina beekeeper Bill Thering, the glass panels are made of quarter-inch thick, impact-resistant safety glass, and the hive can be safely handled through a system of modules and internal gates.

This kind of large observation hive is an opportunity to educate the million+ annual visitors to the area about bees and their importance to human and environmental health. Bees pollinate one-third of all the foods we eat, and their steep population declines over the past several years is a serious concern.

In 2007, Burt’s Bees established The Greater Good Foundation, to further its mission of responsible environmental stewardship and support projects and research at the intersection of bee and human health.

Building bee buffers

Burt's Bees manager of social and environmental sustainability Matt Kopac and general manager and VP Craig Sullivan work on planting a bee buffer.

Burt’s Bees manager of social and environmental sustainability Matt Kopac and general manager and VP Craig Sullivan work on planting a bee buffer.

In April 2014, the White House invited the Burt’s Bees brand to participate in the White House Pollinator Stakeholder Briefing, a discussion between government experts, private corporations and nonprofit organizations about ways the federal government and public-private partnerships might better protect honeybees and other pollinators.

Following the briefing, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum laying out a federal strategy to promote pollinator health. Days later, the Burt’s Bees brand pledged its support by formally announcing the United States Bee Buffer Project, which was already under way at several farms in North Carolina.

Over the coming year, The Greater Good Foundation will contribute more than $150,000 to help 250 new farmers plant and maintain effective pollinator habitats known as bee buffers across the U.S.

Bee buffers are strips of land grown alongside crops that provide bees with a food source and safe places to nest away from pesticides. As bees forage on the buffers, they also pollinate the nearby crops and act as a natural pest control, which helps local farmers.

Representing a collaborative effort between The Greater Good Foundation, The Pollinator Partnership, North Carolina State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Bee Buffer Project will impact approximately 6,600 acres of pollinator forage, about two-thirds of Burt’s Bees 2020 sustainability goal to positively impact 10,000 acres of forage land.