How DC’s DDOT Caught the Beekeeping Bug
Photography by Hannah Colclazier
On a sunny March morning, Joey Perez, Supervisory Forester for District Department of Transportation, had the privilege of welcoming eight queens to the city. Instead of scepters, however, this royal family sported something a little more menacing: stingers.
The newly transplanted queen bees, and their broods of about 10,000 female workers, are part of Mayor Vincent Gray’s administration-wide request to introduce sustainabiliy initiatives earlier this year. Beekeeping is DDOT’s creative eco-friendly effort to increase the city’s sustainability efforts. “Many departments planted trees,” explained the 31-year old forester, “but we wanted to think outside of the box.” Which in this case, means thinking inside of one. The idea to start a system of city-owned hives was hatched in late winter. By March, there were eight hives scattered throughout four of the city’s wards. “We were incredibly fortunate to have a bee expert already on our payroll,” says Perez referring to colleague and departmental IT expert, Jim Amerault. A beekeeper for over 15 years with ten hives of his own, “Jim enabled us to go from 0 to 60 in just a few months.”
The thriving hives are maintained weekly on a volunteer basis by eight DDOT arborists. Two are in a wooded lot owned by DDOT, four are nestled in community gardens, and two others sit atop the roof at The Earth Conservation Corps, an environmental education and leadership program for DC’s out-of-school youth. “We hold mini-classes for the students about the bees,” says Perez. He hopes to eventually pollinate DC’s beekeeping successes across the nation. “In time, we’ll have a template to gift to other cities,” he explains.
In the meantime, he’ll be gifting the resulting liquid gold to local non-profit partners like Bread for the City. Should there be a jar to spare, however, the Texas native has his own sweet plans. “Sopaipillas (a type of fried bread) tastes amazing with honey,” he says, “I can’t think of anything better than that.”