Busy as a Bee: Local Entrepreneurs Bring Hives to Homes
August 21, 2015 6:10 AM
by Michael Martin Garrett
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Dustin Betz has “a pretty wacky idea” buzzing around his head.

Betz – who co-founded the State College-based agricultural design firm Green Towers while studying biology at Penn State – wants to put honeybees in every home and office that will have them.

“Our new idea, the ‘BEEcosystem,’ is about connecting people with honeybees in a very tangible, direct way,” Betz says. “Over the past few decades, populations of bees and other pollinators have been in serious decline, and this is more true now than ever before.”

Considering the vital role bees play in the agricultural process by pollinating plants, Betz is understandably considered by what scientists call colony collapse disorder. That’s why Betz and the rest of the Green Towers team came up with the idea of the BEEcosystem – a wall-mounted, self-sustaining observation beehive.

The concept is simple: you hang the hexagonal hive on your wall, run the connecting tube out the nearest window if you choose to hang it indoors, and then just step back and let nature take its course. (Don’t worry, the bees are behind a pane of glass, so they won’t be buzzing around your living room if you hang it inside.)

Photo via InteriorEcosystems.com

“There’s a really critical need for education about bee populations and agriculture, so I can envision the BEEcosystem being used in a sort of educational or institutional setting,” Betz says. “But we also want to bring these to people’s homes as a way to give beekeeping a try, or just to be an awesome conversation starter about these problems.”

Betz actually worked a summer job as a beekeeper at Penn State several years ago, which says he unexpectedly found himself missing after the job came to an end.  He says it was “a really powerful experience” to support the lives of animals that indirectly support the lives of basically all other creatures due to their role in the pollination process.

His experience as a beekeeper influenced the concept of the BEEcosystem. It’s designed for people who have never considered beekeeping before, requiring less work and direct interaction with the bees than a full-scale, professional hive.

“Beekeeping is not effortless, but this is easier than keeping a vegetable garden in terms of the work you need to put into it,” Betz says. “We need more small beekeepers raising and eventually breeding localized honeybees who are more well adapted to local stressors in that environment.”

Although the BEEcosystem is planned to hit the market this month, the idea has already received a warm response from industry leaders and local residents.

Green Towers was invited to (and ultimately won) a competition in Colorado run by entrepreneurial organization Maverick1000 to fund businesses developing ways to help alleviate the pollinator crises. Betz says this contest is part of larger push for “social business,” which is “the idea of doing business for more than just making money, but as a means to do good in the world.”

Betz also set up a prototype BEEcosystem in State College over Arts Fest, which prompted crowds of people to come over, ask questions and marvel at the innovative, low-maintenance beehive.

To learn more about the BEEcosystem, including information about preordering and pricing, you can visit InteriorEcosystems.com. You can also lean more about Green Towers other kinds of living furniture by visiting its website.

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