Black Changemakers Are Using Bee Farms to Save Detroit Neighborhoods

Although the city of Detroit is known for its vacant lot and abandoned housing problem, the innovation and talent that exists within Michigan’s largest city should not be overlooked—thanks in part to social entrepreneurs Timothy Paule and Nicole Lindsey, the founders and beekeepers behind Detroit Hives. Detroit Hives is a social impact program on a mission to transform vacant lots in Detroit into urban farms for the community. While many people run at the mere sight of a bee, these two changemakers spend their days finding and saving honey bees while educating the community about bees and their contribution to the environment.

We caught up with Paul and Lindsey for insight on how people can save their communities and contribute to the bee movement.



Beyond acquiring a vacant lot and repurposing it into three hives and vegetable garden plots, they’ve also partnered with local Detroit vendors such as The Black Bottom Brewery, Detroit Soup, Seva Detroit, and a local homeless shelter to provide a sweet, raw, locally grown honey that can be used as a medicinal product.


What was the aha moment that inspired you to commit to this effort?
Our moment started with discovering the healing power of honey. In order for honey to have medicinal value, it must be raw, pure, and sourced locally. In less than a year, we took two beekeeping courses, purchased a vacant lot within the inner city of Detroit, and repurposed that property into a bee conservation.

How is the program funded?
We are a nonprofit organization that exists through social entrepreneurship. Not only do we work with businesses and local schools, but our sustainability depends on generous donations, grants, and crowdfunding.
Considering your experiences and efforts to save neighborhoods in Detroit, what are some ways people can save their own cities from blight?  
  • Join or start a community block club. Communicating with your neighbors on a regular basis encourages a stronger community by building relationships.
  • File a complaint. Did you know the vast majority of blight that’s within most major cities goes unreported? Pick up the phone, go down to your city municipal center and complain. Let your voice be heard!
  • Post signage! Posting a “NO DUMPING!” or a “Trespassing” sign can actually go a long way. It shows that someone cares enough to build a sign to ward off trespassers. This, in return, sends a message to them that someone may be watching them.
  • Claim it! In most major cities, residents can purchase vacant lots adjacent from their homes. You can also perform adverse possession, a legal method of taking ownership of abandoned real estate and repurposing it for a community art project, and/or garden.

What about saving bees? 

  • Stop using pesticides and herbicides on your lawns, flowers, and garden beds. Did you know that ladybugs are a natural insecticide?
  • Plant flowers, grow a garden, or don’t cut your lawn as often. Planting bee-friendly flowers, such as lavender, dandelion, borage, mint, sage, raspberries, and tomatoes provide a great source of pollen and nectar to help bees thrive.