Editor Note: During the North American International Auto Show, Detroit Unspun/The HUB will bring you stories about what the auto industry is doing to help transform Detroit and its neighborhoods.
Watching the garden on the garage adjacent to General Motor’s world headquarters bloom has become an annual tradition for those in the Renaissance Center, and the honeybee hives make sure that continues.
Those bees help pollinate the garden, which is much more than just a pretty green place. It produced 187 pounds of vegetables last year, some of which went to the Andiamo restaurant in the Renaissance Center. Its owner then donates the value of the food to the Saints Peter and Paul Warming Center. The center provides laundry facilities, phone and mail service, a quiet place to rest, a warm cup of coffee, a sandwich or bowl of soup and other aid to the homeless.
This year 65 pounds of golden Detroit honey were also harvested and made available in jars for GM employees in exchange for a suggested donation of $10, which went to the Warming Center.
The honeybees came from the Honey Bee Squad, which aims to spread the benefits of bees to as many people as possible.
GM worked close with its new apiarist allies from the beginning and employees working in the garden even learned about how to harvest honey. In addition, RenCen sustainability coordinator Collette Kent made sure to learn about the installation and maintenance of the hive.
The hives went up in spring, but a natural problem came up later that year. Honeybees don’t do well with the cold. So in October when the temperatures started to drop beekeeper Francois Faloppa from The Honey Bee Squad began winterizing the hive to protect the bees from the harsh winds rolling off the Detroit River. Plastic shipping trays from GM’s Kokomo Operations facility in Kokomo, IN, were donated to the cause to help with insulation.
The trays fit perfectly as shelves the bees can cling to inside the insulated boxes. They replace wire mesh, which was previously used. It was such a success GM donated 600 of the plastic shipping trays to Faloppa, his friends, and other apiarists who face the same problems. Not only do they help keep the bees warm, reusing them eliminates a waste stream and the need to source new materials.
The benefit to the garden and wildflowers was so great GM plans to expand the hives this year.
There is also a butterfly garden on top of the RenCen garage that, along with rest of the garden, is managed by 20 employees. All if it is part of GM’s desire to engage as many employees as possible involved in its sustainability efforts.
Queen or drone, these honeybees have a strong hold on one of Detroit’s most iconic buildings and the people inside.
– Photos courtesy of GM. Top picture shows Faloppa preparing the beehives for the winter by adding insulation and a repurposed plastic shipping tray from GM’s Kokomo Operations facility in Indiana.