Bees?!? What Are You Thinking!?!?

By Mary Beth Cappell-Bovee

On the day the delivery from the Walter T. Kelley Company arrived, I knew we were entering the adrenaline-charged world of “NewBees.” This is our story.

Once upon a time, at a “castle on a hill,” the activities department for the McGregor Home  hired me, Mary Beth Cappell-Bovee—a landscape designer and avid people-person—as a Horticultural Therapist.

Since the day I was hired at this senior health campus, my duties have expanded to become McGregor’s Design Consultant, Grant Writer and Co-leader of the McGregor Seed to Feed Community Garden.

My lifetime interests are in all things green, growing, and outdoors. These interests were put to the challenge one day in November, 2011, while meeting with a group of our East Cleveland, Ohio, community gardeners. These members of the “Growing Green” initiative started discussing the idea of having honeybee hives in our city to increase garden yields through better pollination for all the area’s community gardens.

At this meeting, my ambling thoughts came sharply into focus after noticing that the whole group had turned to me with an expectant look. “And we think McGregor is the perfect place for bee hives.”

Thinking to myself, BEES!?! What are you thinking?!?, I calmly said, “Anything’s possible but first I will need to run this by the McGregor Home administration and the residents.”

At the time, I thought I had dodged that bullet (and additions to a fairly full work load), so you can imagine my surprise when I received a call from Stan Hockey, a local BEE!?! keeper. During my conversation with Stan, he revealed that my contact information had been provided by Nicole Wright, the Ohio State University Extension Agent Extraordinaire; a very skilled woman who maintains her sanity remarkably well, given the riveting (to us) and obscure (to her) questions that community gardeners throw her way. I agreed to meet Stan, accompanied by some McGregor residents.

Our discussion with Stan was more like an interrogation as residents Leon Walker and Andrew Knauer badgered—I mean asked—Stan about his working knowledge of BEE!?! keeping.

Finding Stan’s approach to be informed, concise, and very thorough, we invited him, along with any of our facility’s interested residents, to a meeting at McGregor.

Part of me hoped our residents would throw up roadblocks upon learning that I had invited them to a presentation on BEES!?!

Well, somewhere between those machinations and mostly positive feedback, a thought crept into our minds at McGregor: “Why not?”

Having honeybee hives at the McGregor campus would help all of the community gardens in any direction within a two-mile radius (I had been listening while Stan was talking). In addition, our own community garden would have something of value to take to the local farmers market—honey!

I ran the idea past my garden co-leader, Dorothy Greer, a computer class instructor at the East Cleveland Public Library. Dorothy is known for her methodical and steady approach, but, to my surprise, she was somewhat hesitant about potentially swarming wildlife in our community garden. “BEES!?! What Are You Thinking?!?”

After hearing the facts Dorothy suggested we get not one but four hives. She agreed that the following points could work to our advantage:

  • Organic honey—great fit with our organic garden.

  • Organic honey is very desirable and could be sold at the farmers market.

  • The “honey money” (we were already spending it!) could save Dorothy and me from spending many tiring hours of grant-writing for our garden.

  • And most compelling of all, as innovative “rockstar” community garden leaders, we would be invited to give talks all around Cleveland. Well, that’s another story.

Fast-forward with us to May 2012. The Walter T. Kelley Company has generously donated hives, hive bodies et al to our organization. Amidst the excitement and anticipation, our McGregor residents have cheerfully divulged any bee allergies while we proudly decorated our McGregor honeybee hives, and Stan has conducted beekeeping classes for us at McGregor—classes which were open and offered to the greater Cleveland area.

We have gathered loose-fitting, white, button-down shirts (bees like light colors), surgical gloves (stopping the spread of germs across America), and we’ve made our protective head gear.

At the end of April, Stan successfully installed the bees in their new hive on the grounds of the McGregor Home. NewBees meeting new bees for first time went fairly well. Then we waited.

Well, we would have waited, except Stan, the beekeeper, called within five days of installation and left the message, “You have to feed the bees.”

So there Dorothy and I were, on a cool morning, wearing our white button-down shirts and netted garden hats, feeding and TALKING TO THE BEES!?! My daughter had suggested as we planted wildflowers around their new hive, “You have to let them know McGregor is a good place for them; it’s their new home.”

Not that they couldn’t find flowers somewhere on their new 32-acre home, but when our landscape guys (from the same company for over 35 years) found out about “BEES!?! WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?!?, we thought it may be a nice idea for the McGregor bees to have a buffer garden from noisy lawn equipment.

May you live in interesting times,

Mary Beth Cappell-Bovee
The Gardens of McGregor

From the Author: Two years ago we started the McGregor Seed to Feed Organic Garden, a site for our neighbors to come and garden, meet new people and work alongside our seniors. This year we are dedicating some space for a honeybee hive on our property as a way to help all the community gardens (there are 9, last count) of East Cleveland.

Please note the names have not been changed to protect the guilty.

Dorothy and Mary Beth are currently working on getting a fruit tree orchard for the McGregor Honeybees. If you would like to cast your vote to help please visit and vote for The McGregor Community Garden.

  • email